The Broncs Nordic ski teams returned to their home trails over the weekend, and the only thing to change much was there finally was good weather for high school races at Trail Creek Nordic Center.
Instead of the usual spitting snow or windy day the Broncs skiers got to dominate their races against Lander and Pinedale in calm conditions. It was also the first time this year there were two days of races at the high school level, with a 7.5-kilometer freestyle on Friday and the 5K classic on Saturday.
On Friday, Mason Wheeler took the victory for the boys in 22 minutes, 4.6 seconds. Bridger Stiles was second in 22:23.9, Will Johnson third in 23:26.9, Mac Wirth fourth in 23:53.8, and Axel Klomparens sixth in 24:26.8. Lucas Wilmot was eighth in 25:17.2, giving Jackson six finishers in the top 10.
Despite the absence of Wheeler on Saturday, the Jackson dominance continued. Stiles won the classic race in 15:13.1, Johnson was second in 15:50.8, Josh Roubin third in 16:08.3 and Axel Klomparens fourth in 16:13.8. Wilmot was seventh, giving the Broncs six finishers in the top 10.
Bridger and Wheeler have been the ones to catch early this season, both racking up victories. But really, the strength so far has been the depth on the boys side, with Jackson sweeping the top four spots on both days.
“We do have Mason and Bridger at the top, they’re so strong on the boys side, but after that it could be anyone’s, any day,” head coach Katie Paddock said. “There were really strong performances both days by a lot of people.”
It’s a similar story on the girls side, though there was some shuffling among the squad. Kate Brigham and Natalie O’Brien have been tops of Nordic skiing in the state, with O’Brien winning the state classic championship a year ago and Brigham finishing second. The skate state title went to Brigham, with O’Brien finishing second.
One winning a race and one finishing second, and then flipping those spots has been the norm for the pair. But over the weekend they added a new wrinkle to the back-and-forth.
On Friday, O’Brien took the skate race in 26:14.1, Brigham second at 26:45.2. And then on Saturday, Brigham took the classic race in 16:57.9, O’Brien second in 18:04.9.
“Across the board they both have a slightly stronger discipline, but I think Natalie just had a lot of drive to win that race on Friday,” Paddock said. “And then I think Kate having Natalie beat her, she came back with that same exuberance the next day in the classic race. It all depends on the day.”
Also like the boys, the depth is their strength. Hailey Stines was third in the skate race in 27:26.6, Elsie Hall was seventh in 28:40.3, and Aurora Stiles was eighth in 29:10.4. In the classic race Stiles finished third in 18:38.6, Chloe Stines was fifth in 18:42.2 and Hailey Stines was sixth in 18:47.6.
Jackson will be back at it this weekend in Lander, though this time the entire state will be on the course. Paddock said it will be nice to get another look at how the state stacks up, but right now the competition is coming from the West, with Lander the team most capable of challenging Jackson any day.
“Fortunately, Lander and us are the most competitive teams, so it was really fortunate we were able to compete against each other; it gives us a really good idea of where the kids are at.”