This article was originally published by Austin Colbert in The Aspen Times.
The state skiing championships in Steamboat Springs two weeks ago were difficult for most of the Aspen High School Nordic skiers.
Junior Chelsea Moore competed, taking third and fourth in her two races, but an ongoing illness made it challenging. Sophomore Colt Whitley, who was expected to be one of the top two Aspen boys, didn't even compete because he was so sick.
"At states I did not have my best races because I was still pretty sick," Moore said. "But I'm feeling good now and I'm really excited to go give this nationals my best."
With both feeling better, they'll join two other current Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athletes at the 2017 USSA Cross Country Junior Championships, held Monday through Saturday at Lake Placid, New York. Lake Placid hosted both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.
"For most of the athletes, it's the pinnacle of their season," said AVSC Nordic program director and coach August Teague. "Hopefully they are in their best shape, and it's their one chance to compete against their peers from across the country."
Joining Moore and Whitley are Carbondale's Kate Oldham and Grand Mesa's Jordan Miner. Both are AVSC skiers who each competed for Colorado Rocky Mountain School at the state high school championships. Oldham took second in the girls skate race at state.
This will be the first time going to junior nationals for Oldham and Miner, both high school freshmen, while Whitley is going for the second time and Moore the third.
"I was bummed about (missing state), but it was more important to get healthy," Whitley said. "I feel like I'm in better shape this year, if I feel well, and I've been feeling well. So I hope to do better this year."
Whitley also missed the final Rocky Mountain Nordic qualifier of the season because of his illness, but thankfully for him had already qualified for junior nationals previously. He'll be a second year U16 skier at Lake Placid; his best finish last season at junior nationals in Cable, Wisconsin — home of the fabled American Birkebeiner Nordic race — was 33rd.
Moore's best finish came two years ago at Lake Tahoe, California, when she took 18th in a sprint. She will be a first-year U18 skier at Lake Placid.
Oldham and Miner both will compete in the U16 age group.
"I'm just really excited to be on the Rocky Mountain team with all my friends that I only get to see at the races, usually," Moore said. "I'm not nervous because all my team has stepped up with me. I'm more excited to get in with the older girls and more competition."
Races begin Monday with the interval start freestyle. Wednesday is the classic sprint, followed by Friday's mass start classic and Saturday's 3×3-kilometer freestyle relay. Tuesday and Thursday are training days.
"They've got their personal goals and are hoping to have their best races," Teague said. "For the younger ones, it's still a learning process, so later on when we are at bigger races, they've got more experience."