East Grand School District students compete in the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch Classic in Grand County | SkyHiNews.com

East Grand School District students compete in the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch Classic in Grand County

The high country air was cold and crisp Saturday morning Jan. 7 as cross-country ski racers from throughout Colorado prepared to compete under a clear blue sky at the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch facility in Grand County.

Temperatures were hovering around -20 Fahrenheit as racers prepared to move to the starting line Saturday. There were several hundred racers on hand for the event and even more family members and spectators in attendance crowding the racetrack and finish line.

Races for the day kicked off at 9 a.m. for the 17th annual Snow Mountain Ranch Classic, open to the public and cross-country enthusiasts along with junior high and high school students.

Middle school and high school cross-country racers followed later in the morning with a start time of 11 a.m. The East Grand School District competed against numerous regional schools from Colorado's mountain interior. Student races began with a mass start of high school boys at 11 a.m., which was followed shortly thereafter by the high school girls mass start and then mass starts for both the junior high boys and girls divisions.

Travis Fuqua, Head Coach for the Middle Park High School Cross-Country Team, was busy waxing skis for the athletes of Middle Park Saturday morning but took a brief brake to discuss trail conditions.

"It is clear and cold today," Coach Fuqua said.

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"The high school will be doing five kilometers today the middle school will be doing three kilometers. It should be a nice sunny day for a race."

Middle Park High School (MPHS) student Aaron Sanders was preparing to race early Saturday morning and was fighting to stay warm.

"It is very cold," Sanders joked.

Sanders has raced cross-country previously but this is his first year racing for MPHS. He was optimistic about his chances but acknowledge the entire cross-country team is still getting into the swing of things this season. "This is the first race of the year, so hopefully we do good," Sanders said.

Along with the high school and junior high students racing Saturday morning were numerous non-school affiliated racers. Mike Jezier was just finishing up some warm-up laps for the morning when he paused near the YMCA Nordic center for a brief interview.

"The air temperature is very low today," Jezier said.

"The snow seems to be very cold. I'm just out here trying to find the right wax, which is tough today." Jezier said he would be competing in the 7.5km heat.

Grand County local and Enterprise Facilitator with the Grand Enterprise Initiative Patrick Brower was among the adult racers Saturday at YMCA.

"Despite the cold conditions it was a great course, great skiing, highly competitive," Brower said before taking note of the expansive crowd.

"We can host a lot of people here."

Middle Park senior Elliot Shaw was still catching his breath after finishing his 5km race.

"The race today went pretty darn well," Shaw said.

"It was very, very cold out, but that was to my advantage because I like more kick than anything. I was able to run up the hills fast." Shaw did not know his official time or place but he was among the pack leaders for high school boys Saturday morning.

The East Grand Middle School Cross-Country Ski team also had a great day on the track. Jon Kuhns, one of three cross-country ski coaches for the EGMS, expressed his happiness with the first race of the season. "We had 48 skiers out here skiing," Kuhns said.

"It was kind of cold but we got everybody waxed up. For a lot of them it was their first race. Boy, we just really did well. It was awesome seeing the skiers today."

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