NEDERLAND — The way she’s performed early on, Nederland senior Dayna Larsen is in the midst of a 2013 campaign that could be the bounce-back season she’s searching for.
On the La Belle Dame run, Larsen took first place at the Panthers’ slalom state qualifier at Eldora Ski Resort. Larsen’s combined two-run time of 1 minute, 28.63 seconds earned her her second top-two finish of the season.
“My first run was really solid and I made a couple mistakes in my second run but I was happy,” said Larsen, who won state titles in both alpine slalom and giant slalom her sophomore season.
Larsen had offseason surgery to remove bone spurs in her feet. She is not as strong as she was this time last season, but Larsen said the pain is gone and she is rebounding nicely.
Behind Larsen, the Panthers girls took first place as a team with 177 points. Evergreen came in second with 165 points and Middle Park took third with 160.
Also for the Panthers, Keile Kropf finished second in 1:34.88 and Nola Gehring took third in 1:43.26. Nederland junior Bailey Kuechenmeister, the state’s reigning Skimeister, finished fourth after falling 10 gates from the finish during her second run.
Competing on home their home mountain, Larsen said, energized the Panthers.
“We love having the race here at home because it gives you a sense of comfort when you’re racing on the same mountain where you train,” Larsen said. “We had a large majority of our team in the top 15.”
They had nine — Larsen, Kropf, Gehring, Kuechenmeister, Kyle Robbins, Chase Robbins, Jane Bright, Emma Gann and Jenna Linsley — in the top 15.
“I was having an amazing run during my first,” said Kuechenmeister, who also took seventh place at Loveland on Jan. 4 and ninth in Steamboat on Jan. 11. “I fell, but I’m still pleased with it. Our main goal at this point is to get as many girls on our team qualified and into state as we can.”
Panthers first-year head coach Chantal Knapp said La Belle’s steep and icy hill added mental strain to the racers’ challenge.
“Today was the kind of race where if you skied smart, you skied fast,” Knapp said. “Both courses were set with some tricky sections that required some tactics. Today was a tactical day.”
On the boys side, Panthers junior Grant Ellwood took second place in the boys division. He finished second to Evergreen’s Jake Bender, who was first in giant slalom and second in alpine slalom at last year’s state championships.
Ellwood said Thursday’s silver-medal runs were in line with how he has been skiing this season but would prefer to have been closer to Bender.
“My first run was pretty solid, I just came into one of the flushes towards the end of the course,” Ellwood said. “In my second run, courses usually aren’t that fast and I had some trouble with that.”
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Slalom State Qualifier
At Eldora Mountain Resort
Slalom team scores — Nederland 177, Middle Park 165, Evergreen 160, Clear Creek 145, Platte Canyon 102.
Top 5 slalom individuals — 1. Dayna Larsen, Nederland, 1:28.63; 2. Keile Kropf, Nederland, 1:3488; 3. Nola Gehrig, Nederland, 1:43.26; 4. Bailey Kuechenmeister, Nederland, 1:44.29; 5. Rebecca Bolen, Middle Park, 1:47.77.
Other Nederland finishers — 6. Kyle Robbins, 1:48.86; 7. Chase Robbins, 1:48.94; 12. Jane Bright, 1:59.30; 14. Emma Gann, 2:00.92; 15. Jenna Linsley, 2:01.77; 18. Erin Lewis, 2:06.63; 21. Anne Cox, 2:10.58; 23. Shelby Ingle, 2:15.82; Kaetlyn Arant, DNF; Olivia Kuhns, DNF.
Slalom team scores — Evergreen 172, Nederland 169, Clear Creek 157, Platte Canyon 152, Middle Park 52.
Top 5 slalom individuals — 1. Jake Bender, Evergreen, 1:22.86; 2. Grant Ellwood, Nederland, 1:30.57; 3. Michael Skladano, Clear Creek, 1:33.68; 4. Christopher Morris, Evergreen, 1:38.44; 5. Matt Wood, Nederland, 1:42.48.
Other Nederland finishers — 7. Michael Carrannant, 1:46.43; 10. Evan Fleckenstein, 1:52.49; 12. Brett Mattisen, 1:54.04; 13. Nicholas Allen, 1:54.82; 15. Caster Reid, 1:57.01; 17. Ian Hastings, 2:01.41; 20. Eric Spangler, 2:09.48; 25. Drew Icenogle, 2:15.68; 32. Sasha Lien, 2:30.36; 37. Brock Pommer, 2:43.91; Hayden Mans, DNF; Quin Kuechenmeister, DNF; Kyle Strand, DNF; Sam von Mettenheim, DNF.