Wonder twin powers activate in Steamboat
The Aspen Valley ski and Snowboard Club nordic team continued to demonstrate their strength at Steamboat Springs with two 1-2 finishes at the Junior Olympic Qualifier the weekend of Dec. 17-18.The challenging classic mass-start course featured the chaos of a mass start coupled with some grueling uphills just outside the stadium.J-1 racers Simi Hamilton and Brandon Cooper used the hills to their advantage to join the lead group. Both racers found their stride in the flats and separated themselves from a contingent of top skiers from Boulder and Steamboat and finished with a gold for Hamilton and a silver medal for Cooper.”Simi definitely set a pace that none of us could keep up with,” said Cooper. “But by the time I got to the second lap, I was also able to put some good distance between myself and the rest of the field.”AVSC’s Noah Hoffman was caught up in a dogfight for second place in the J-2 race. After chasing down the early leader, Durango’s John Gerstenberger, they engaged in a fierce duel with Gerstenberger barely edging out Hoffman at the finish.Laura Hatanaka skied a strong race for AVSC but was unable to close with the leader, and she claimed her second consecutive second-place finish for the J-2 women.In the skate race, Hamilton and Cooper again took the top two spots in the J-1 class. Hamilton set the pace early and a lead that he wouldn’t relinquish, but Cooper made a strong push in the final kilometer and was able to close within 15 seconds of Hamilton.In the J-2 class, Laura Hatanaka ended a streak of second-place finishes with her first win of the season.Noah Hoffman almost did the same but came up one second short and had to settle for silver.”I spoke to Laura and Noah in the start and I told them each, ‘Hey, you’ve been second several times this year. You’re due for a win – let’s do it today,'” said AVSC nordic program director John Callahan. “They both rose to the challenge – Laura got the win and Noah only missed it by a second. Now they both know they’re capable of winning.” In a clash between the children of AVSC coaches, former AVSC nordic skier Jenny Hamilton, Ruthie Brown’s daughter and Simi’s sister, split races with Tiffany Callahan, Callahan’s daughter in the OJ, or older junior, division. Tiffany edged Jenny out in the classic mass start and Jenny returned the favor in the 5K sprint race.”This is the second weekend in a row that I’ve come back very satisfied with the way the team skied,” said Callahan. “Our top skiers are right where they should be – on the podium. And our less-experienced skiers all skied very well; I’m seeing some big improvements.”I can’t expect to see Simi and Brandon in the top two spots in every race this year, but I do expect to see them there most of the time. Brandon has been putting some good pressure on Simi, and I won’t be surprised to see them flip-flopping for the top of the podium throughout the season.”
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Perhaps, Radamus’ brief moment on top was a preview of coming attractions. He hopes so. Radamus certainly got the season off to a great start by finishing 27th in the opener.