Middle Park racers crush it at Western US High School Championships

Middle Park High School skier Sofia Olsson was one of seven racers to represent Colorado in the Western U.S. High School Championships last week.
Lisa Gillest/Courtesy photo


A team made up of the best high school skiers in Colorado dominated the Western U.S. High School Championships on March 12-13 at Mt. Rose in Lake Tahoe.

Five states including Colorado, California, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming brought their top 12 high school racers to compete. This was the first year Colorado was invited to the event.

The goal of the competition is to bring together the top high school racers in both men’s and women’s events from each state.

Middle Park High School racers accounted for seven of the 24 races who represented Colorado, including Sofia Olsson in the women’s division and Sebastian Wiser, Garrett Gillest, Zack Niedzweski, James Briggs, Micah Byrum and Noah Kauffman in the men’s division.

“It means a lot to be one of the 12 girls chosen out of Colorado to compete at the Western U.S. High School Championships,” Olsson said. “It was the first time Colorado was able to be represented at this championship race, and for us to go there and perform this highly was truly a huge accomplishment for the team.

“Being able to see how I stack up against other racers from other states was really exciting, and it shows how hard we work not only as individuals, but how well we work together as a team. As a senior, I am so grateful I was able to attend this race with all of my close friends before going our separate ways. Looking into the future, I am excited to see what else I can accomplish with ski racing.”

“This has been a dream of mine since I was young,” added Garrett Gillest. “I am so happy to have made it and preformed the way I did. It also came along with lots of sacrifice. The sacrifice would include long, hard training days, late nights of ski tuning and perseverance. I hope to keep improving my skiing and become the best ski racer I can. But all in all, I really want to thank my coaches, family and friends for the support along the way.”

The atmosphere at the races was different from any other high school race this year, including the state championships, said Middle Park assistant coach Bill Gooch.

“All of the racers knew this was a special and, for some, a once-in-a-lifetime event,” he said. “They were all excited to be chosen to be on the team and grateful to be there.”

Ski team practice is held at Winter Park Resort on Wednesdays and Saturdays with races on Fridays. Competitors are a mix of those who race exclusively for the Middle Park High School ski team, for Winter Park’s Competition Center and those who double down, participating in both.

Two additional girls made the initial round of qualification but were not able to travel: Olivia Niedzwiecki and Emma Bellatty.

“Our head coach had to give their spots to the next two girls in line at qualifiers based on the performance,” said Lisa G. Gillest, who brought this story to the Sky-Hi News.

Middle Park High School individual finishes

Sofia Olsson: 14th in giant slalom, 6th in slalom

Sebastian Wiser: 2nd in giant slalom, 3rd in slalom

Garrett Gillest: 7th in giant slalom, 5th in slalom

Zack Niedzweski: 6th in giant slalom, 6th in slalom

James Briggs: 4th in giant slalom, 4th in slalom

Micah Byrum: did not finish giant slalom, 43rd in slalom

Noah Kauffman: did not finish giant slalom, 2nd in slalom, 8th for team points

Team awards

No. 1 Women’s Team (giant slalom and slalom)

No. 1 Men’s Team (giant slalom and slalom)

No. 1 Men’s and Women’s Combined (giant slalom and slalom)

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