STHS juniors accomplish rare feat
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
Drive by South Tahoe Middle School during school hours in the winter and chances are you’ll see some children cross country skiing.
But very few student athletes are choosing to apply the skills learned in their physical education classes toward the STMS and South Tahoe High cross country teams.
Jeff Meagher and Greg Koeck were the Vikings’ only male varsity competitors this winter. However, the low numbers haven’t stopped Meagher and Koeck from chasing their cross country dreams.
The South Tahoe juniors recently qualified for the Junior Olympics, which are set for March 6-13 at Auburn Ski Club.
“It’s the first time in many years for someone here to qualify for nationals,” said Scott Hudson, the boys’ coach at STHS.
Hudson said that the reason they qualified for junior nationals isn’t a secret.
“They were willing to work really hard,” Hudson said. “They are very receptive to going out and skiing hard and doing the workouts.”
Hudson said most teenage athletes are unwilling to put in the work that Koeck and Meagher have.
“It’s a very demanding sport, a lot like cross country running,” Hudson said. “(Kids) want the easy things – the gliding sports – and cross country skiing is a lot more physically demanding and it’s a technical sport.”
Meagher and Koeck qualified for junior nationals for the first time by competing in the necessary three qualifying races, including one in distant Soldier Hollow, Utah. They also were required to participate in classic and freestyle races.
The toughest requirement was to finish within 8 percent behind the average of the second, third and fourth-place finishers’ times.
“I don’t think I had enough training or skill. I was just too novice,” said Koeck about not qualifying a year ago. “This year, it’s like every day we’re working out, but it’s been good because it’s been helpful.”
In the last qualifier last Saturday at Auburn Ski Club, Meagher finished 11th and Koeck 16th in a 15-kilometer race.
Now they can focus on training locally until they join their Far West teammates on terrain that is as familiar as Kirkwood and Spooner Summit.
“It’s a great advantage because we know what we’re going to come up against, but it’s still going to be hard,” Koeck said.
The racers with local knowledge refer to one section as the black hole.
“It’s just crazy,” Koeck said. “Before it there is a huge downhill and to get out of it there is an everlasting uphill.”
Considering what it took for Koeck and Meagher to make the junior nationals, the black hole is a challenge they welcome.
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