Haley Swirbul claims national cross-country skiing title | PostIndependent.com

Haley Swirbul claims national cross-country skiing title

Madeleine Osberger
Haley Swirbul of Basalt stands atop the podium Monday in Stowe, Vt., after winning the under-16 5-kilometer classic cross country national championship at the United States Junior Nationals. Swirbul won the race by 15 seconds over Leah Lange of Park City, Utah, pictured to the left of Swirbul. At right is third-place finisher Hannah Halvorsen of California.

Haley Swirbul of Basalt won a national cross country skiing championship by a convincing margin on Monday, leading a small but mighty team of Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club Nordic racers that is competing this week at the 2014 USSA Cross Country Junior Championships in Stowe, Vt.

Swirbul, along with siblings Logan and Hudson McNamee, who reside in Blue Lake (outside of Carbondale), qualified for this prestigious event based upon their finishes to date.

In Monday’s 5K classic race, Swirbul dominated the under-16 division, winning by a whopping 15 seconds. “That’s a huge amount for a 5K,” Maria Stuber, AVSC’s Nordic program director, said.

Swirbul was the third fastest of all women — regardless of age — that day.

Teammate Logan McNamee, who is also a U16, finished in 38th place in his race, just 2 1/2 minutes behind the leaders. Her brother, Hudson, a U20, had a “solid race” among a competitive national field, finishing 110th, according to Stuber.

Wednesday, Logan McNamee was 30th in her heat for the 1.4K classic sprint. Swirbul, meanwhile, finished second in her heat and later, second in the qualifier that was held on Trapp Family Lodge trails.

Logan and Hudson’s father, Brendan McNamee, said the brother/sister cross-country skiers aren’t necessarily motivated by an in-house rivalry.

“They really love skiing and competing,” said Brendan McNamee. “They love the beauty of it. And they love to work hard and chase people.”

The passion to “chase people” came in handy last week for a handful of AVSC alpine skiers who were using a final qualifying series to punch their ticket to the junior championships. The annual Council Cup at Ski Cooper near Leadville provided U16 and U14 athletes one last chance to advance to the finals, which begin Sunday for the U16s and March 17 for the U14s.

Winning at Council Cup is no small feat. The best three of six races in the series help decide which U14s (the top three men and women) and which single winner among U16s move on to the championships.

AVSC’s Annabelle Ward of Basalt and Trey Thorpe of Aspen battled through three days of heated competition before winning their championship slots in the U14 finale.

Carly Ransford of Missouri Heights skied her best runs of the season at Council Cup. Had she been a U14, where three slots were available, Ransford would have made the team. The sole female U16 entry from Council Cup to the championships was Abby Durell of Loveland Ski Club.

“Carly should be really proud of herself,” AVSC alpine director Greg Needell said.

So should Kajsa Sutro of Carbondale, who had respectable finishes in both the first super-G and again in slalom. Sutro, who last week also skied her first-ever downhill race, is coming back from an ankle injury and is starting to find her groove this season.

“Kajsa’s set up to do well in the spring,” Needell said.

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