Panther Nordic skiers tuned up for start of season |

Panther Nordic skiers tuned up for start of season

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

The Nordic ski team of Middle Park High might be small in numbers, but they once again expect to be the dark horse in this season’s races.

The Panther cross-country skiers will be at their first starting line of the 2007-08 season on Saturday at the Vail Golf Course. The 5-kilometer classic technique race is slated to start at 9 a.m.

Middle Park’s team has only 14 skiers on its roster ” four girls and 10 boys. But coach Wade Wilderman has confidence his skiers will get the job done.

“I think we will be pretty strong again this season,” Wilderman said. “We always seem to be the little giant among the other teams. We’re never big in numbers, but we hold our own. We have a good group of kids on this team.”

The Panther girls squad has three returning Nordic skiers ” Ryndi Zastrow, Makenna Morck and Mackenzie Wilderman. Joining their ranks is freshman Samantha Miyauchi who turned in good results as a member of Middle Park High’s cross country running team this fall.

The returning skiers on the Middle Park’s boys squad are Skyler Miller, Eric Shurson, Matt Naschak, Matt Curran and Hugh McDonough. New to this year’s team are Nick O’Connor, Alberto Sapien, Cooper Knockenmus, Colin Papuga and Ben Shipman.

“Colin, Samantha and Cooper are new skiers this year,” Wilderman said. “They are training hard and picking up the ski technique quickly. They’re inspiring us.”

The team is now in its third week of training. Last week, they got on snow for their practice sessions for the first time.

“They are actually looking really good,” Wilderman said. “We did some skiing without poles the other night and they impressed me.”

The Panther cross-country skiers conduct most of their practices at the Nordic Center at Snow Mountain Ranch. Because practices begin at about 4:45 p.m., a lot of their ski training is conducted after nightfall.

“Snow Mountain has a lighted loop, but we only plan to spend once a week on it to evaluate technique,” Wilderman said. “We sometimes use headlamps, but our skiers actually like skiing in the dark. It’s good for their balance and prevents them from looking down at their feet.”

For the present, the team is focusing on classical technique rather than skating to prepare for this Saturday’s season-opener at Vail. Because they have not had a lot of skiing time, Wilderman and the team’s assistant coach Kent Zastrow want their skiers to view this first race as training only.

“In this first race, I’ve told them not worry about the results but to train through it,” Wilderman said. “We want them to start at a decent pace so that they don’t blow up out there on the course. I’ve warned them if we see them going really hard in the first 100 yards of the race, we’d tackle them.”

Once the team gets past its first race this weekend, Wilderman said the training plan is to “mix it up” by practicing classical and skating techniques on alternating nights.

“That actually gives a skier some rest by doing a different technique,” he said. “And the two techniques really complement one another.”

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