NEDERLAND — The Nederland High School ski team expected to replace top-level skiers with immense depth up and down the lineup this season.
So far, the Panthers have done a pretty darn good job of doing just that. But with the state championship meet looming this Thursday and Friday at Keystone Resort and Frisco Nordic Center, it’s time to find out how the Panthers’ depth will stack up against the rest of the state’s best teams.
Since his boys team has won three of six competitions during the regular season, senior skier Owen Foster thinks the Panthers will stack up better than people think.
“I know we can do it,” said Foster, who finished fourth in the slalom and ninth in the giant slalom at last season’s state meet. “I bet we can get five or six guys in the top 10 in both events.”
Flanked by Quin Kuechenmeister (26th giant slalom), Trig Campbell (18th giant slalom), and several others with top-10 potential, Foster hopes to lead the Panthers on a quest to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish. Overall, the girls placed third behind Summit and Aspen last season.
For Foster himself, he’ll be gunning for top-three finishes in both alpine events in his final trip to the state meet.
“I ski a lot better when I don’t really think about anything,” Foster said. “I’m just going to let my mind flow and shoot for the top three.”
Despite graduating a powerhouse lineup that included three-time Skimeister MVP Bailey Kuechenmeister after last season, the Nederland girls team has also won nearly half of the season’s meets and alpine head coach Chantall Knapp said in the preseason that the team could be better as a cohesive unit.
In the Nordic events, any top-five finish might be a stretch but Nordic head coach David Femmer said the Panthers are looking to crack several skiers into the top 15.
“We’re looking pretty good,” Femmer said. “Especially with such a young team, we’re looking to get a bunch of experience and try to do as well as we can and have some fun.”
Panthers Nordic skier Mackenzie Radandt finished 17th in the girls Nordic Classic at last year’s state meet and on the boys side, James McNamara placed 50th.
The state meet will open with the giant slalom at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday on the “Upper Go Devil” and “Richter” runs at Keystone Resort. Also on Thursday, the Nordic Skate event will be held at Frisco Nordic Center beginning with an interval start at 3 p.m.
On Friday, the slalom will be held on “Richter” at 9:30 a.m. and the Nordic Classic will begin with a mass start at 3 p.m. at Frisco Nordic Center. An awards banquet will follow at host Summit High School.
Follow Brad on Twitter: twitter.com/BradCochi