Panther skiers prep for Nordic season
It has been an unseasonably warm fall for Grand County but despite the dry balmy conditions Nordic athletes from Middle Park High are gearing up for the coming ski season with a new head coach at the helm.
Long time local Nordic skiing coach Mike Lohman, who has volunteered as an assistant coach with the Panthers in years past, has taken the reins of one of the top cross country skiing squads in the state. Lohman and the rest of the Middle Park team got to work in November prepping for the coming winter season and while the students are working hard they are impatiently awaiting some heavy snowfall.
“We are looking forward to snow,” Lohman said. “I don’t know who ordered it but this year’s shipment must have gotten lost in packaging.”
Setting jokes aside Lohman said he and the students from Middle Park are excited for the coming season and added, “I think we are going to have some success. Their (the students) attitude is great, their effort is great and they are getting strong.”
With the warm late fall weather Middle Park is currently experiencing the Panther Nordic team has had to focus their attention on dryland training in preparation for the snow. Over Thanksgiving break the team got the opportunity to get out on their skis but Coach Lohman explained the team has been somewhat stymied by the conditions. The Nordic team has focused most of their training efforts so far this year in the weightroom but Lohman said the students have been chomping at the bit to get on their skis.
“The enthusiasm they have is amazing,” Lohman said. “The kids jump off the bus and they just want to get out there and have a great time skiing.”
There are around 30 kids currently training with the Nordic squad but Coach Lohman said numbers are still shifting a bit as students continue to sign up for the team as the heart of the season approaches. Lohman said he has a fairly even mix of boys and girls on the team and that each of the four high school grades make up about one quarter of the team’s total numbers.
“We have a really good group of freshmen who came up through the middle school program,” Lohman said. “And we have a lot of great seniors who have been competing for years.”
Lohman noted the team has a handful of first time cross country skiers trying out the sports this year. They will be aided by a contingent of student athletes who have trained and competed in Nordic skiing since their preschool days.
Lohman was quick to praise the work of the middle school cross country skiing coaches and the EGMS Nordic program which helps prepare many younger students for the more rigorously competitive atmosphere of high school.
Lohman will be receiving some assistance out on the snow with his coaching duties from a collection of assistant coaches who together bring a deep wealth of knowledge to the Panther crew. Jessica Jortberg, Nordic Program Director at the Winter Park Comp Center, has been working with some of the athletes, who train with the Comp Center, since May, doing dryland training, and will continue to help hone the skills of the students this season. Snow Mountain Ranch’s Nordic Director Bill Pierce has also volunteered his skills to help the team this year.
Local man Dave Cleveland will be working with the young student athletes as well this year along with Karen Fletcher.
“The kids are really appreciating all the support they are getting,” Lohman said. “They are just eating it up.”
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