NEDERLAND - Perennially one of the top ski teams in Colorado, the Nederland Panthers are proving just how motivated they are to remain among the state's elite this season.
The Panthers have regularly placed multiple racers in and around the top 10 at all of their meets this season. But with under a month left in the season, the Panthers racers, not the coaches, recently voted to extend practice length.
As well as the Panthers have already done, it's hard to imagine that they won't get better down the home stretch if they are collectively volunteering to work even harder at honing their craft.
"The team is doing great," first-year coach Jonathan Damon said. "Really, they're all self-motivated and are incredibly focused on getting better on their own. The other coaches and I are just making sure they have rood race courses to race on and they're doing the rest."
Damon, 32, has been coaching for 10 years and most recently was the head coach at the Rivers School in Weston, Mass. Joining the Panthers this season, he was thrilled to be taking over a solid squad of alpine racers from schools across the Boulder Valley School District.
The Panthers boys placed seventh in the overall team scoring at last year's state meet and the girls placed 10th. On both sides, they have some strong racers back this season who are already proving to be podium contenders.
Junior Delaney Pratt, who placed sixth in both the slalom and giant slalom at last year's state championships, won each of her first two races this season. Senior Trig Campbell, who placed 16th in the slalom and 15th in the giant slalom at state last season, will be one of the Panthers' top boys. A senior-heavy group this season, the Panthers also have solid depth in their Nordic events under coach Jennifer Lavely.
"I love this group of kids," Damon said. "They're all hard-working and their parents come out and help. I'd love to also give a shout-out to Eldora because our practices there are amazing. We have some great Nordic skiers and a few who could qualify for the Skimeister so the last month of the season should be really fun."
The Panthers race next at Ski Cooper on Thursday. They will be at home at Eldora Mountain Resort on Feb. 15. The state championships will be hosted by Steamboat Springs on Feb. 23-24.