Cohee, Wehan advance to nationals

Nevada Appeal News Service

It's billed as the Super Bowl of junior ski racing and the Carson Valley's dynamo ski racing duo of Nick Cohee and Bryce Wehan will be there.

The venue is one of the most storied sites in Winter Olympic history, Lake Placid, N.Y. and Whiteface Mountain, host to the 1980 Winter Games. It will be the host of the 2004 J2 National Alpine Ski Championships.

After 12 days of racing in Utah, Montana and Wyoming, Minden's Cohee and Gardnerville's Wehan have soared to national prominence. They will now face the best 15 and 16-year-olds in the country March 5-11 in all four skiing disciplines - downhill, super giant slalom, giant slalom and slalom.

"The J2 National Championships is in essence the equivalent of an All-American high school football game," said Gardnerville's Liza Alvarez, director of the Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation and former Douglas High standout ski racer. "The top 70 from across the nation will go head-to-head and both Bryce and Nick will be right in the think of it. They qualified very well and are threats in almost every event."

Both skiers are coached by Gunther Birgmann, a coach with the Austrian national team, and coach at Kirkwood.

"Hard work, dedication and discipline that's what it takes," Birgmann said. "These two boys have spent the past three months working to this goal and achieved high results exactly when they had to under tremendous pressure. They are absolutely among the best school boy ski racers in the nation right now."

While earning several top finishes throughout the grueling 12-event qualifying spread over three Rocky Mountain states, Wehan scorched the super giant slalom course in Big Sky, Mont. His third place finish among all J2 Western Region athletes cemented his spot on the regional team headed to Lake Placid.

Cohee, as he did last season in Junior Olympic qualifying, was down to his last chance in the giant slalom at Snow King, Wyo. After being forced to run last of 155 racers on the first day, he recorded a top-10 finish, then came back the next day and laid down one of the best results over the entire 12 days of qualifying.

"Both Bryce and Nick have competed in the Western Region Junior Olympics the past two years against the top 100 racers in the Western states," Kirkwood ski coach Tim Kawcak said. "The J2 National Championships is a whole different level where the National Development Team coaches from the United States Ski Team will be watching, looking for the next Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves. Bryce and Nick are definitely on the national team radar screen with their performances so far this season."

I believe in giving appropriate credit where it's due and there is no doubt Bryce and Nick are where there are in large part to the coaching of Gunther Birgmann," Kirkwood Resort president Tim Cohee said. "The Austrians are the best alpine ski racing team in the world and ahve been for a long time. Anyone who spends a few minutes with Gunther will know why quickly: Unparalled focus, preparation, discipline and passion.

"He brings a world class program to Kirkwood, which has brought us to national prominence as well along with our athletes. And he's a tremendous person, teaching the boys life lessons well beyond alpine ski racing."


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