Summit High Tigers Nordic Ski Team Dominate the Podium

Carter Niemkiewicz cruises to a seventh place finish while competing at the 2023 state skiing championships in Frisco on Thursday, Feb. 16 2023.
Cody Jones/Summit Daily News

Editor’s Note: The article has been updated to correct where Vail Mountain School’s Will Brunner resides.

Although the Summit High School Nordic ski team had its first competition just a little over two weeks ago, the team is already halfway through its slate of regular season meets. The athletes are now preparing for the state Nordic skiing championships from Feb. 22-23.

Over the last week, Summit competed in its second and third meets of the season.

In the team’s first classic state-qualifying race of the season, which was held at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center on Saturday, Jan. 20, Summit put 11 athletes under the state-qualifying mark, and junior James Sowers won his second-consecutive race.

In the boys race, Sowers and Summit sophomore Carter Niemkiewicz worked off one another throughout the 5-kilometer course. Although the race had an individual start, the duo stayed close to one another time wise, but it was ultimately Sowers who skied across the line in first place in a time of 16 minutes, 3.8 seconds.

Nearly five seconds back, Niemkiewicz took second in 16:08.4. Brody Henning placed 14th in 17:50.2.

“I felt pretty good,” Niemkiewicz said. “The snow conditions were a little bit interesting. There was a lot of slipping and you had to rely on your double pole. The course catered pretty well to me. I was pretty excited to be that close to James, and I think my training has been going really well. I just have to keep pushing myself. I feel like I am in good shape, and I am happy to keep racing.”

Parker Osborn rounded out the scoring for Summit in 20th place (18:20.2) and was soon followed by Josh Shriver in 22nd (18:30.7). Sowers, Niemkiewicz, Henning, Osborn, Shriver along with Bryce Oppito, Griffin Heins and Cain Steinweg all placed under the state-qualifying mark to finish within the top 51 athletes at the meet.

The Summit boys Nordic ski team secured its second team title of the season after collecting 209 points, beating out Poudre School District in second with 201 points and Battle Mountain High School in third with 197 points.

“I think it is pretty cool to race as a team and have a good team,” Niemkiewicz said. “I think it makes it more fun when you have to worry about the team standings and how you will affect the placement of the team. I think we have even more depth than last year, and I think we will probably be able to get another state title.”

After easily winning the first race of the season in Leadville, junior Ella Hagen faced some fierce competition in Steamboat Springs. Bolting off from the start line at hot pace, Hagen began navigating the adverse conditions on the course.

After nearly 20 minutes of racing, Hagen crossed the finish line in seventh place. Lake County High School’s Brynna Lenhard placed first in 19:05.4, Battle Mountain’s Lindsey Whitton placed second (19:15.2) and Lake County’s Susie Bullock placed third (19:28.2).

Two Tigers followed Hagen. Heidi Frey placed 24th (21:55.7), and Katherine Williams placed 30th (22:44). The Summit girls Nordic ski team secured 152 points to match its finish from Leadville, seventh, while Lake County won the meet with 225 points.

Hagen, Frey and Williams all met the state-qualifying mark in the classic discipline.

Four days later on Wednesday, Jan. 24, the Summit Nordic ski team, led by head coach Eva Hagen, was back on the start line for a 5-kilometer skate race at the Vail Golf Course. Coined the “Under the Moonlight” Nordic ski race, athletes strapped on headlamps and began racing across the relatively flat course. 

Oppito, a junior, led the Summit boys Nordic skiing team, slicing through the falling dusk and placing third overall in a time of 14:36.0. Steamboat Springs High School’s Conner Fristhen placed first overall (14:31.0). Vail Mountain School’s Will Brunner took second (14:32.0).

Shriver was the next Tiger to finish the race, placing eighth in a time of 15:08.0. Freshman Malachi Love placed 17th (16:31), Griffin Heins finished in 32nd (17:26), Donovan Ramey placed 34th (17:31) and Owen Fallon placed 38th (17:55). 

Even thought Niemkiewicz and Sowers didn’t compete in the Vail race, Summit managed to narrowly place second with 190 points behind Battle Mountain’s 191.

Hagen returned to her winning ways in the girls race in Vail, winning the race by close to 24 seconds in a time of 16:54.0 and scoring 60 points for the team. Lake County’s Chloe King placed second, and Whitton placed third before Summit’s Fiona Florio could make it across the finish line in 23rd place with a time of 19:17.

Summit placed fifth overall at the meet with 177 points while Lake County ran away with the girls team title with a total of 224 points.

With three meets remaining before the state Nordic skiing championships in Granby, Summit will turn its focus to a classic race at Maloit Park in Minturn on Saturday, Feb. 3, before hosting a home skate race at the Gold Run Nordic Center on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

Both races will be the final opportunities for athletes to punch a ticket to the two-day state championship event. The home race is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 7.

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