First-year Kokanee Nordic coach looks ahead to promising future |

First-year Kokanee Nordic coach looks ahead to promising future

Michael Traum

How many reasons does a perspective collegiate cross country skier need to consider coming to Lake Tahoe Community College?

If the abundance of prime snow conditions, perfect elevation for maximum cardiovascular development and exposure to quality coaching isn’t enough, try this one – the team just capped its inaugural season by competing in nationals.

“We made a lot of improvements each race. We can build a big program here,” said coach Susan Lannoy.

The Kokanee fielded one woman and three men, the latter of which competed at nationals in Mammoth last month. While the three men qualified for the big race by being the only competitive community college to field a team in the region, Lannoy views the automatic bid as a program-building blessing.

“These first few years are going to be building years. I think a lot of other high school coaches and programs are watching to see what happens here,” she said.

And the team’s national results shouldn’t hurt the recruiting process. Led by freshman South Tahoe High graduate Forrest Armstrong, the Kokanee finished eighth out of nine teams, skiing better than U.S. Military Academy. Other schools included MIT, Cornell and the University of Wisconsin.

Joining Armstrong were Nathan Coats and Travis Lambert. Out of 48 competitors, Armstrong completed the freestyle race in 16th place and the classic in 25th, with Lambert 31st and 37th and Coats 34th and 39th, respectively.

“I thought it would be a good experience, so we decided to go for it,” Lannoy said. “I was ecstatic (with the results). I kept asking them if I’d told them how proud I was. They would just grin and roll their eyes.”

The team’s lone female competitor was Pia Ripatti, who like many collegians combined school, work and athletics. Lannoy said she was pleased with Ripatti’s development, an on-going lesson that reached a peak during one of the season’s five Far West races.

According to Lannoy, Ripatti’s parents are from Finland. The elder, more experienced Ripatti actually joined his daughter during the competition and the two raced neck-and-neck to the finish line.

“It was really exciting. Pia’s father won by about two seconds. But I saw her let up right at the end. I don’t think she wanted to beat him,” Lannoy said.

A knowing post-race glance from Ripatti confirmed her coach’s suspicion.

As the recruiting season approaches, Lannoy is convinced that once athletes see the opportunity that LTCC offers, she should have an easier time securing a complete squad. The coach already has a handful of interested skiers lined up for the 1999-2000 campaign. More experience combined with solid training can make all the difference, she said.

“We got a late start (last season) on recruiting and only Forrest had actual competitive experience. It was a mental game at first. It was not how fast can I go but how far. By the end of nationals, it was how fast can I do this?” Lannoy said. “I saw great results. It was fun to watch. And once (other athletes and programs) see how things are going, it’s going to be a neat deal.”

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