Two Park City Ski and Snowboard athletes prepare for Nordic combined Junior Nationals
Snow finally fell over Park City last week, which provided a great opportunity for Nordic skiers to get out at the second leg of the Black Diamond Wasatch Citizens Series race at White Pine Nordic Center on Sunday. Usually this would have been a big race for the U-18 cross-country crowd pushing toward Junior Nationals — set to be staged at Soldier Hollow in early March this year. However, most of those athletes instead went to a qualifying event in Sun Valley, Idaho, after the Soldier Hollow/The Utah Nordic Alliance Superqualifier was canceled due to lack of snow.
That made the race a perfect opportunity for Nordic combined athletes to hone their skills against each other, and that’s just what Zach Selzman and Cooper Seliga of Park City Ski and Snowboard’s Nordic team did. The two finished first and second in the U-16 category, followed by Santiago Arrambide — a dedicated cross-country skier — of the Soldier Hollow Nordic team.
This year’s Nordic combined Junior Nationals are scheduled to be held in Anchorage, Alaska, on Feb. 20-24, and so far only Selzman and Seliga of the PCSS Nordic combined team are going.
Selzman finished the 5.3-kilometer race at the White Pine Nordic Center with a time of 16 minutes, 30.4 seconds. Seliga finished in 19:01.7 and Arrambide finished in 19:28.6.
Seliga pulled away from Arrambide up the final slope up to the finish.
“Cooper, he put up a good fight and he did pass me, but we are similar, we both have very good traits — he just won this time and next time I hope that I can beat him,” Arrambide said.
Seliga said training for situations like his finish on Sunday is a big part of the team’s season.
“It’s mostly just keeping yourself motivated to go as fast as you can up to the top of the hills so you can recover on the downhills,” Seliga said after finishing. “I just tell myself, ‘If you’re tired then you just have to work as hard as you can to get to the top, because then you’re not going to be tired anymore.”
He and Selzman are both preparing for Alaska, where they will race as individuals and represent Park City in a team competition.
In a display of honesty and self-deprecating humor, Selzman said he was “hoping that (he) won’t get last.”
“That’s really it,” he said. “Because there’s some really good kids there. Maybe do a personal best I guess.”
But at 13, Selzman is racing in a comparatively tough field comprising mainly 14- and 15-year-olds. Seliga, 14, said Selzman has been holding his own at that level, even while the team competes against larger clubs from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Bozeman, Montana.
Emma Garrard, Nordic development manager at PCSS Nordic, said the team typically races against such clubs.
“Yeah, on the cross-country side of things, we had three (athletes) medal at Junior Nationals last year, so we do really well compared to the number of kids in our program,” she said. “On the Nordic combined side of things, it definitely makes our program more unique because there are only so many clubs that offer that.”
From this point forward, the PCSS Nordic combined team will jump two or three times a week and add conditioning drills when possible.
Though Seliga and Selzman only received their official invitations to the Nordic combined Junior Nationals last week, Seliga said the event is already starting to occupy his mind.
“Mostly when I’m getting ready to go to practice, it comes up in my head and I overthink it and get myself nervous, but it’s going to be fun,” he said.
It will be his first time going to Junior Nationals and Selzman’s second.
The cross-country racers, like Arrambide and those who traveled to Sun Valley, will compete in their last qualification event on Feb. 17-18 in Idaho, and Junior Nationals is set for March 5-10 at Soldier Hollow.
A complete list of Sunday’s results will be listed in the next edition of The Park Record.
PCSS Nordic combined Junior Nationals competitors:
Zach Selzman, Cooper Seliga
PCSS ski jumping Junior Nationals competitors:
Rachael Haerter, Kian Crawford, Jillian Highfill, Paige Jones, Macey Olden, Sam Macuga, Sophia Nester, Greyson Scharffs
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Brace has been racing motocross for a year and a half