Dayna Larsen freely admits that the competition in Colorado prep skiing is tougher than two years ago when she won state titles in both the slalom and giant slalom.
But with her final high school state meet on the horizon the Nederland Panthers senior has her sights set on leaving with another crown.
The Colorado state ski championships take place Thursday and Friday. Alpine competition will be held at Winter Park Ski Resort. Nordic events will be held at Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center in Granby.
Giant slalom and 5-kilometer freestyle races are on Thursday, while slalom and 5K classic races are Friday.
"Since that year (high school skiing) has kind of become more popular with club racers, so the competition has definitely increased," said Larsen, who followed her 2011 titles with second (GS) and fourth (SL) place finishes last year at state to lead the Panthers girls to a third-place team finish. "But I'd definitely (like to win another title). If I have a good race, I think it's definitely possible."
Likewise, Nederland should be poised for another solid team finish -- which combines alpine and Nordic events into the overall scoring -- particularly on the girls side.
Along with Larsen, Keile Kropf, Bailey Kuechenmeister, Raina Galbiati and Nola Gehring give the Panthers plenty of depth to score well even if not everyone has a good day. Nederland has 10 skiers qualified in girls slalom and eight in GS.
Kuechenmeister, meanwhile -- who returns as the state's top Skimeister (the title given to the top alpine/nordic combined skier) -- heads up a Nederland girls crew that has a full slate of qualifiers in both Nordic events.
While the Nederland boys are short a couple of qualifiers for a full score on the Nordic side, the boys are similarly strong on the alpine side, despite one of their top skiers, Michael Carrannante, suffering a broken collarbone last week in training that will keep him sidelined.
Grant Ellwood leads the likes of Owen Foster, Quin Kuechenmeister, Ian Hastings and Matt Wood for the NHS alpine squad.
"It's been a great year," said first-year Nederland coach Chantal Knapp, a former U.S. Ski Team member. "We're still a developing team. Although we've placed well as a team, we're still growing together so we can podium more often."
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