Team will be in its second year of competitive skiing after restarting program last year

Crook County High School has had competitive cross country skiers since at least the 1970s.

However, the program has been on again, off again. After a couple of years off, the program relaunched last year. Now in his second season as head coach, Russell Johnson is excited about the direction the program is PHOTO COURTESY OF CCHS CROSS COUNTRY SKI TEAM - Members of the Crook County High School cross country ski team pose for a photo during a cross country ski practice near Mt. Bachelor. The team rarely has the opportunity to practice on snow, instead relying on technique work and conditioning.

“We have one guy back from last year, and he seems to be skiing a hair better than he did at the end of the season, which I’m really excited about,” Johnson said. “Then we have a foreign exchange student from Germany that skis quite well, so I’m really excited to see how they do.”

Dustin Seyl, the lone returning skier, was the team’s top performer last year. The sophomore also ran on the cross country team, so should already be in great shape. Leonhard Pusl’s (the foreign exchange student) experience skiing in Europe should also help the team this year.

Although the remainder of the team is young and inexperienced, Johnson is excited about their enthusiasm.

“All the rest of the group is new to cross country skiing, but they are doing quite well,” he said. “It’s fun to watch them learning the technique and picking it up and they are having fun — that’s the main thing.”

Because of the distance from the high school to good groomed ski trails, the team has had limited practice on snow. Instead much of the practice time is spent working on technique and conditioning.

However, the cold spell in mid-December gave the team a couple of days practice on skis at the high school. In addition, the team has gone to Swampy Lakes, Dutchman’s Flat, and Meisner Sno-park, all near Mt. Bachelor, for occasional ski practices.

Last year, Crook County and another new program were placed in a separate division so that they did not have to compete against the more experienced teams. This year, the other squad was unable to field a team and Crook County will move into competition against the remainder of the teams in the Oregon Interscholastic Ski Racing Association (OISRA).

Crook County will compete in the Southern Division against Ashland, Mountain View, North Eugene, Northwest Youth Corps Outdoor School, Pleasant Hill, South Eugene, and Summit.

Although the team has just seven members, that should be enough to field complete relay teams and a full squad for team scoring purposes.

Meets were scheduled to start on Saturday, Jan. 4, at Diamond Lake. However, that meet was recently canceled due to a lack of snow on the ski trails at the lake.

Instead, the season will now start on Saturday, Jan. 11 at Mt. Bachelor.

Racing is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m., with the 5K skate skiing event, which is scheduled for an interval start. Racing will continue with the 3x1K relay event, which is scheduled for a mass start.

The race takes on special importance as it is a qualifier for the state meet, which will be held on Saturday, Feb. 21-22, also at Mt. Bachelor.

“We are excited about the team and it will be fun to see how they do,” Johnson said. “They are a fun group of kids to work with.”

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