When Dayna Larsen was a sophomore in high school, she decided her goal was to
become the state ski champion. Larsen, a Nederland Middle/Senior High School senior, reached
her goal on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 14 and 15.
She won the state title in both the slalom and giant slalom in Winter Park, beating the
best skiers the state has to offer. Larsen is the consummate competitor and has been a major
force for the Nederland team since she was a freshman, always hitting the slopes with the
intention of winning.
At the age of three, Larsen learned to ski at the end of a harness her dad had a grip on.
She took to the sport like a fish to water. When she was seven years old, she joined the Eldora
Mountain Ski Club and skiing became more than a fun thing to do…it became competition, and
Larsen was bitten by the win bug.
When her older brother Dustin, a Nederland ski racer, went to his sports banquet dinner,
Dayna watched the ski team receive their awards and decided she wanted to be there someday.
As a freshman, Larsen began training four days a week and earned the state skimeister title. By
the time she was a sophomore she was on the slopes six days a week. As a sophomore, she won
both slalom and giant slalom at the state competition. At this point she decided to drop Nordic
skiing and focus on alpine races.
Last year, she finished with a second place in the giant slalom and a fourth in the
slalom. “The competition was much harder last year than the year before,” Larsen said, “and this
year it was even harder.” So she trained hard physically and mentally for the championship this
year. She wanted to leave on top.
Winter Park was blanketed in snow on Thursday morning and the racers pushed a lot of it
on the giant slalom course. Larsen took her first run, and it was the fastest time for the girls and
just short of being the fastest time for the boys.
Larsen had an overall time of 1:56.86, almost two seconds faster than the second place
skier from Evergreen and third fastest of the boys.
Larsen said that when she is on the course she doesn’t think about times and what place
she is in. She always skis as fast as she can. “I knew it was going to be hard, but I knew I had the
ability, but you never know the outcome until you get to the bottom and they announce your
time. I had my doubts in the second run, but it all worked out.”
When Larsen learned she had taken second place in the slalom, she thought her goal had
been stolen by Evergreen’s Clara Hawthorne, but the race judges ruled that Hawthorne had been
disqualified after straddling the second to last gate, putting Larsen up front. Her high school ski
years were finished and Larsen was on top, leading the Panther team to a second-place alpine
finish and fourth place overall.
After a few days to rest, Larsen headed for Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to race with the
Eldora Mountain Ski Club. She said her goal is to race with the University of Colorado ski team,
but she’s not sure she’s fast enough for college level. She plans on attending CU and training
hard to make the team.
Another huge success for the Nederland team is junior Bailey Kuechenmeister’s capture
of the state skimeister title. The skimeister is the athlete who earns the most points in both
Nordic and alpine events. Kuechenmeister began skiing when she was in fifth grade, when she
trained with Nederland’s new coach Chantal Knapp. It was Kuechenmeister’s goal to win the
skimeister title for the second year in a row and she did it, again.
Kuechenmeister placed in the top 15 finishes in all of her four races on Thursday and
Friday and was 15th in the slalom and seventh in the Nordic 5K classic race on Friday.
After her first year of coaching the ski team, Chantal Knapp said it was a fun season but
not flawless on her part. “As soon as the last ski racer crossed the finish in the final race, I
smiled, and said to one of our coaches, “I wish we could start all over again. I think I finally
figured it out, but now we are all finished for the season.”
Coach Knapp said that the administrative component of the position as head coach was
humbling at times, but she learned a great deal of how best to communicate with nearly 40
racers and their families from a dozen different schools.
“I am really impressed with not only the depth of talent in high school racing, but the
level of commitment and dedication the athletes have to both athletics and academics. It is nice
to see both camaraderie and competition so nicely integrated in an individual sport such as ski
racing. The team aspect is huge in high school racing which clearly reflects the growing
popularity of high school racing. In short, the winter was a flurry, not of snow, but of
competitions, camaraderie, communication and coaching. I am really proud of all the athletes,
and I congratulate them all. ”
The success of the team was also due to the passion and perspective of assistant coaches
Mike Harding and Kevin Hueth, Coach Knapp said.
The boys’ team finished seventh overall with junior Grant Ellwood taking 24th in the
slalom. It was his first time at a state meet and although he said he had hoped for a better time he
had enjoyed skiing with the team. The Nederland boys took fifth in the 5k Nordic class race.
The boys’ Nordic Classic team came in fifth place overall. 49. Luke Duvall, 25:57.2; 57.
Matt Wood, 29:53.7; 58. Deric Green, 30:24.0.
The girls took fifth place in the nordic classic: 7. Bailey Kuechenmeister, 23:28.4; 22.
Machenzie Radandt, 25:40.0; and Sophie Lindenberger, 33:03.5.
The girls took seventh in the skate race:10. Bailey Kuechenmeister, 18:28.4; 31.
Machenzie Radandt, 20:18.2; 46. Emma Vigers, 22:45.6.
The Nederland boys took 12th in the skate race: Matt Wood came in 62nd, 23:33.6.
Nederland boys finished eighth in the slalom: 24. Grant Ellwood, 1:49.38; 28. Matt
Wood, 1:51.18; 29. Owen Foster, 1:51.41; Eric Spangler, 1:53.93; 44. Jacob Scheiffler, 2:01.12;
51. Nicholas Allen, 2:04.86; 56. Sasha Lien, 2:07.75; 59. Evan Fleckenstein, 2:12.94; and 63.
Brett Mattison, 2:25.03.
Girls’ Alpine Slalom finished second overall: 1. Dayna Larsen, 1:36.00; 15. Bailey
Keuchenmeister, 1:45.78; 21 Raina Galbiati, 2:49.92; 24. Nola Gehring, 1:55.04; 27. Kyle
Robbins, 2:00.28; Chase Robbins, 2:00.39; 44. Emma Gann, 2:11.09; 53. Jane Bright, 2:28.51;
58. Jenna Linsley, 3:22.15.
The girls’ Alpine Giant Slalom results: 1. Dayna Larsen, 1:56.86; 8. Keile Kropf, 2:04.69;
14. Bailey Kuechenmeister, 2:08.61; 19. Kyle Robbins, 2:12.64; 27. Nola Gehring, 2:17.30; 28.
Chase Robbins, 2:18.10; 37. Emma Gann, 2:26.02; 51. Raina Galbiati, 1:45.86.
The boys’ Giant Slalom results: 8. Grant Ellwood, 2:04.00; 37. Quin Kuechenmeister,
2:18.66; 41. Ian Hastings, 2:19.12; 55. Matt Wood, 2:23.04; 53. Jacob Scheiffler, 2:23.37; 51.
Eric Spangler, 2:25.37.