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  • Bailey Kuechenmeister is one of two big guns at the...

    Jeremy Papasso

    Bailey Kuechenmeister is one of two big guns at the top of Nederland's girls alpine lineup along with defending state champion Dayna Larsen.

  • Bailey Kuechenmeister

    Jeremy Papasso

    Bailey Kuechenmeister

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NEDERLAND –Bailey Kuechenmeister didn’t ski for Nederland High School as a freshman last year. But she joined the Panthers as a sophomore, and this season is shaping up to be a special one for her and the Panthers.

Particularly strong on the girls side, the Panthers have three strong top alpine skiers and the Nordic team is much-improved. Kuechenmeister has been leading the Panthers with top-five finishes in alpine and top-six finishes in Nordic all season.

A convert from club skiing, Kuechenmeister is one of few with a shot that the Skimeister award given to the top Nordic-alpine dual threat following this week’s state championships.

“We’re all just going to go out that and give it our all and see what happens,” said Kuechenmeister, the only Panther to compete in both the alpine and Nordic disciplines. “I’m definitely trying for top five in both disciplines in alpine and top 15 in both disciplines in Nordic.”

The Panthers girls team also has a shot at the overall team title.

“We’re really looking to go out and win state this year,” said Kuechenmeister, who was also a part of the Panthers’ state champion cross country team in the fall. “This past weekend our third skier didn’t even finish and we still won. We’re having a really strong season.”

Featuring five or six solid point-scorers on the girls side, including former Skimeister Dayna Larsen — the defending state champ in the slalom and giant slalom — the Panthers don’t even have to be at their best to be a threat.

“Right now I feel like I’m skiing the best I’ve ever skied,” said Larsen, a junior who won the Skimeister award as a freshman in 2010.

Kuechenmeister is a sophomore and attends Nederland High School, home to a 32-member team that draws participants from 11 schools in Boulder County. Panthers alpine coach Whitney Taylor said Kuechenmeister brings a club skiing work ethic to the more laid-back high school scene.

“She’s very consistent and she’s been at all but one race,” Taylor said. “She’s been huge. We’ve had four girls added to the team this year who really kind of stack up the ladies.”

The Panthers group has done well all season but only one competition remains. The state championships are Thursday and Friday at Bear Creak (alpine) and Minturn (Nordic).

“It’s kind of a last finale to the season,” Taylor said. “What’s most important is that the kids have fun, but the girls have a shot at winning it all if they lay down solid runs each day.”

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