An 18-year-old skier from Hailey captured first place in the Junior Men competition and placed eighth overall against world-class Nordic skiers in sprint races Wednesday on the first day of the Sun Valley Super Tour cross-country ski races.
Reid Pletcher, a member of the Sun Valley Ski Education Junior Cross-Country Ski Team, logged fast enough qualifying times to earn a position in the Final B Heat. He placed fourth in the race, but that was good enough for eighth overall in a field of 37 racers.
"That ended up being an exceptional finish, so we're pretty psyched up about it," said Rick Kapala, Pletcher's coach and the race organizer.
Pletcher, a senior at Wood River High School, is the son of Johnna and Dr. Del Pletcher. He is the younger brother of Luke Pletcher, a Sun Valley racer who won a junior national championship two years ago.
Kapala said Reid Pletcher's performance Wednesday was his strongest ever.
The 1.5 kilometer sprint races were the first competition of the Sun Valley Super Tour, which continues Saturday and Sunday at Galena Lodge.
Wednesday's races were held at the Lake Creek Sprint Loop three miles north of Ketchum.
The Canadian National Nordic team dominated the men's competition, winning the top four places. Sean Crooks took first, Phil Widmer second, Drew Goldsack third and Dan Roycroft fourth.
Stefan Kuhn (CAN) finished fifth, Chris Jeffries (Canadian National) took sixth, Anders Haugen (Rossignol/APUNSC) placed seventh and Sun Valley's Pletcher took eighth.
CXC racer Laura Valaas won the women's competition. Shayla Swanson (Bridger Ski Foundation) took second, Peianne Jones (Canadian National) placed third and Tara Whitten (CAN) finished fourth.
Sarah Daitch (CAN) placed fifth, Caitlin Compton (CXC) finished sixth, Kate Person (Rossignol/APUNSC) took seventh and Cathy Jaques (CAN) placed eighth.
Ninth place was won by Sun Valley junior skier Alexa Turzian.
"We had a nice day," said Kapala. "We were able to pull this race off with thin snow, thanks to a lot of volunteers who were out there shoveling snow. All in all we're off to a good start."
Some 60 racers competed in the Wednesday sprints, but Kapala expects about 120 competitors for the Saturday and Sunday distance races.
On Saturday, interval start racing begins at 10 a.m. with the men's 10k classic event. The women's 5k classic starts at noon.
Sunday, women will compete in a mass start format 15k freestyle race starting at 10 a.m., while a men's 30k mass start event will start at noon.
Junior races will be held earlier Sunday. A 5k women's freestyle race starts at 8:30 a.m. and a men's 10k skate race starts at 9 a.m.