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By Tim Hauserman
While Lake Tahoe and especially Squaw Valley has long been known as a producer of top notch downhill skiing and snowboarding talent, in recent years cross country skiers from the region are making a name for themselves as well. In fact, in the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea, three athletes who have trained in the area will be competing in cross-country skiing events: Joanne Reid in Biathlon for the United States; Russel Kennedy, raised in Truckee but competing for Canada, and Annika Taylor, who has lived all her life in Truckee, but her dual British citizenship has allowed her to race for England.
North Tahoe is making it’s mark as well. Former North Tahoe High School standout Quinn Lehmkuhl and current senior JC Schoonmaker recently raced in the National championships in Alaska, and Schoonmaker did so well he was invited to Finland to compete in the Under 18 World Championships. Meanwhile, on February 2nd in Mammoth, the North Tahoe High School team took on the region’s best high school cross-country ski racers. The first four finishers in the girls race were all North Tahoe kids: Lily Murnane, Kili Lehmkuhl, Camille Syben and Alani Powell. In the boys division, North Tahoe took three of the four spots with Cooper Anderson in first place, Bjorn Halvorsen from Truckee in second (his sister Hannah is on the US Ski Team, and brother Hayden was racing with Schoonmaker in Finland), with NTHS Max Roske in 3rd and Phoenix Sanchez in 4th.
As the director of Strider Gliders at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area for the past 15 years, I’ve enjoyed watching hundreds of kids develop a love and appreciation for cross country skiing. They start out in preschool and slowly learn the basics through 5th grade, then a few of those skiers discover that cross country skiing is their calling and with the help of expert coaches in Middle School, High School, Devo teams, and college programs, they progress into amazing racing machines. It takes a lot of long, arduous days on the trail, and a spirit of dedication to make it happen. Cross country ski racing is really hard work, in fact Outside magazine last year rated it as the hardest winter sport in the world. And our local kids have to carry out that dedication in a community where they could forget about struggling up that hill, and just take the chairlift to some of the best downhill skiing in the world. So they deserve extra kudos! Congratulations you cross country skiing champions! Keep up the good work!
Stop into the Mountain Grill at Sunnyside to catch all the action. The coverage of the Winter Olympics starts Thursday and will be shown on the 6 HDTVs throughout the bar.