When it comes to public nicknames, Montana is aptly named the Big Sky State.
You could have added big sigh after a three-day series of lung-bursting, leg-burning Intermountain Division Junior Olympic qualifying races hosted by the Bridger Ski Foundation in Bozeman.
Sun Valley coach Ashley McQueen, a SVSEF racing alum, summed up, "We had a great weekend. As the results show the kids skied really well. It was fun to see all their hard work pay off, and I think they are just getting started."
Day one was run in conjunction with the Montana State University-hosted NCAA classic races.
Sun Valley's Erik Fagerstrom and Danny Sundali finished 20th and 24th in the men's 15k classic. SVSEF alum, Miles Havlick, now at the University of Utah, was 11th.
New to the Sun Valley team is high school junior Annie Pokorny, who finished a stellar 17th in the women's 10k against a tough collegiate crowd. Skiing for the University of Colorado at Boulder, Alexa Turzian was 13th.
Racing at the redesigned Bohart Ski Ranch, Sun Valley kids might have felt at home tackling the very steep climbs and technical descents reminiscent of their Lake Creek training grounds.
With 273 entries on Saturday, SVSEF Nordic director Rick Kapala felt his team members held their own, posting great results, especially in their age classes.
In a 10k freestyle, Sun Valley boys swept the J1 class with Daniel Sundali first followed by Scott Schoen and Torin Tucker. Andrew Pfeiffer was 11th and Brandon Wade 15th. Gray Reidinger also raced.
Emily Williams and Morgan Atkinson were 2nd and 3rd in the J1 class in the women's 5k. Turzian was 11th overall. Sloan Storey won the J2 division followed by Maggie Williams 2nd and Maranda Stopol 5th. 5th place as well for Zach Lindahl in J2 boys.
Over a distance of 3k, Sun Valley placed five girls in the top 10 in the J3 class with Haley Montgomery 2nd, Maddy Watts 4th, Katie Feldman 6th, Montana Tucker 9th and Kailey Wilt 10th. In J3 boys, Luke Verst scored a 13th in his first IMD race. Sarah Verst cranked her way to 4th in J4 girls.
Classic sprints were held at Lindley Park in downtown Bozeman Sunday.
Gold medalists were Annie Pokorny and Erik Fagerstrom, who were the overall champions on the day, as well as Haley Montgomery and Will Spiller with his first-ever IMD podium.
Silver skiers were Watts, Storey and Schoen. Bronze went to Williams and Lindahl. Also posting top-15 class results were Tucker, Feldman, Stopol, Atkinson, Luke Verst, and Kaitlyn Landis.
Next up for the team is the Soldier Hollow Super Qualifier, Jan. 29-30.