By: Shawn O’Brate
LANDER – Every year one of the most fun, unique sports in the winter season takes place around Fremont County with the Lander Valley High School’s (LVHS) Nordic Skiing team. The 2022-23 season for LVHS started this past Wednesday as practices officially began for them at the nearby Beaver Creek “home” location.
“The first week of practice was a little chaotic,” LVHS Nordic Ski Head Coach Norm Cessna said. “We finally got on snow [Wednesday] which is earlier than we got on snow last year … getting kids on snow is critical in an endurance and skill sport like this because there are different techniques [and] different challenges.”
The two techniques, Freestyle and Classic Stride, involve different skills but overall the team of 24 student-athletes at LVHS are prepared for all the challenges that both bring with them. Not only are they prepared for those challenges, they are prepared for the “Goliath” in the state: Jackson Hole.
“Jackson has just been dominating for so long,” Coach Cessna said. “They have a strong club program that bolsters their school program and, generally, we finish as runner ups to them.”
Coach Cessna, after watching his girls’ team finish as runner-ups for the past five seasons while the boys finished as runner-ups for the past three seasons, knows that they are David to Jackson Hole’s Goliath.
“We know how they train, we know how strong their offseason programs are and we’ve just been trying to mirror that and keep up. Everyone knows they need to work hard, as they do, if they want to shoot for the top and break the hold that Jackson has on the sport,” Coach Cessna said.
This year they feel they can break that hold thanks to some experienced cross country skiers, some of whom are coming off super strong cross country running seasons. One of those is new 3A State Champion in girls’ cross country, Ameya Eddy, who Coach Cessna says is “very talented” for only being a sophomore.
“Cross country and skiing are very complimentary sports,” Coach Cessna explained. “You have got to have the engine to do both; that’s 80% of the game.”
There’s also senior Otus Beason who has “really stepped up as a leader” after yet another “tremendous summer training” and his All-State selection last season. Another familiar name that will be pushing it to the limit for Coach Cessna is LVHS cross country and track star, Diego Lobatos.
“[Diego] has been making some excellent transitions. I expect him to do well this year,” Coach Cessna said about his junior distance skier.
Emily Anderson, fresh off a state championship victory in swim and dive, is also a “really strong” skier for the team alongside All-State skiers Annika Wilmot and Shayla Babits.
This could be the year that the LVHS Nordic Ski team puts it all together like they did in the ‘90s and early 2000s for Coach Cessna to get over that hump, beat the powerhouse Jackson Hole team, and bring back a trophy for the school and the county this season. It all starts on December 9 in Laramie as their first meet of the year happens.
You can catch the team yourself at Beaver Creek, 20 minutes up South Pass, during their only home meet of the season in January as they host the High Plains Qualifying meet on January 13 and 14.
Good luck this season Nordic Ski team and don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way of bringing back that trophy!