Frost Mountain skis on home course in Ripton

RIPTON — Frost Mountain Nordic Club members competed against top skiers from around Vermont on Sunday, when the Rikert Nordic Center hosted the Team Vermont Qualifiers for the Eastern High School Championships (EHSC) and J2 (U-16) Championships.
According to Frost Mountain Nordic Coach Cam MacKugler, in both the EHSC and J2 championships each New England state brings its top 20 male and female racers to compete for the crown of top state. Frost Mountain and Rikert will jointly host the J2 championships on March 7, 8 and 9.
Sunday’s qualifying races for the Vermont teams for those events featured a 3.5-kilometer classical race in the morning followed by a 3.5K freestyle race in the afternoon. The times from both events were added together to determine the top 20 finishers — and Vermont team members.
Two Frost Mountain racers qualified for both the EHSC and J2 championships, Cornwall’s Sophie Hodges and Middlebury’s Nick Wilkerson. Hodges was 13th in the morning classic race and seventh in the afternoon freestyle, while Wilkerson took 20th in the morning and 22nd in the afternoon.
Also competing from Frost Mountain were Ripton’s Cade Christner, Brandon’s Ben Jerome, Lincoln’s Keeley Kane, and Weybridge’s Dorothy Punderson.
In the boys’ events, Christner took 90th in the morning and 75th in the afternoon, Jerome finished 74th in the morning and 64th in the afternoon. In the girls’ events, Punderson was 55th in the morning and 46th in the afternoon, and Kane took 86th both in the morning and afternoon.
Also, on Friday at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Hodges competed in a SuperTour 5K skate race. MacKugler described the SuperTour Series as the largest domestic elite race series, in which professional athletes vie for prize money as well as World Cup berths with the U.S. Ski Team for the 2014-2015 season.
He said points accrued from these races also can help junior athletes qualify for the Junior Nationals, which will be held at Stowe’s Trapp Family Lodge in March. Hodges was one of four in her under-16 age group in the race, competing against mostly either professional or collegiate racers. She placed 94th, 3:45 behind winner Caitlin Gregg, who was the first alternate to the U.S. Olympic Team and this year’s national champion in the 30K freestyle.
“Soph skied a great race and got to compete against much older girls, many of whom have been racing in Europe for U.S. development teams,” MacKugler said. “It was a great opportunity for her to hang with some elite racers and see firsthand what the top level of competition looks like.”
In all, he believes it was a successful weekend for the local Nordic club.
“We competed against some of the best skiers in the country on Friday,” MacKugler said, “and then proved that we were some of the best in the state on Sunday.”
FROST MOUNTAIN NORDIC Club member Nick Wilkerson races at the Team Vermont Qualifiers in Ripton Sunday. Wilkerson advanced to both the Eastern High School and J2 championships.

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