Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Andi Bourne

Ski team wraps up successful season


March 26, 2020

Bridget Laird, Head Coach

Seeley Lake Nordic Team at the West Yellowstone Rendezvous. Front (L-R): Land Neudecker, Trey Good and Kimber Hanson. Middle (L-R): Sam Ayers, Hattie Batchelder, Noah Stone, Kilty Hanson and Eli Nicholas. Back (L-R): Will Batchelder, Hattie Batchelder, Owen Hoag, Eric Lorentz and Cora Stone.

SEELEY LAKE – The Seeley Lake Nordic Club wrapped up their season with the Yellowstone Rendezvous March 7. The team skied to new heights this year. The competitive team continued to take the podium at area races and participated in their first international race in Canada while building participation and enthusiasm for the Junior Prep Team.

This year there were 13 racers on the Competitive Team including five from Seeley-Swan High School. Ella Batchelder was the only senior this year.

Batchelder has been skiing since she started to walk and racing since the ski program started in Seeley Lake 12 years ago. This year she was the captain of the Competitive High School team. On Thursdays, when the high school kids did not have organized, formal practices, Batchelder helped out with the junior prep team after school.

"Her leadership and positive influence will be sorely missed," wrote Head Coach Bridget Laird in an email. 

The Junior Prep Team grew to 17 participants in its second year.

"I definitely felt the enthusiasm of the young skiers and their families," wrote Laird. "I'm hopeful that this will continue to thrive and build the program."

The team continued to grow and had consistent coaching with returning Head Coach Laird and Assistant Coaches Mike McGrew, Darren Zellman, Brie Guilmette and Karen Kovatch. Ryen Neudecker was also added to the list of dedicated coaches and parents like Heath Hanson continued to help out in practice.

Laird wrote the trail conditions were "consistently great this winter thanks to our volunteer grooming force, Seeley Lake Nordic Club (and Mother Nature)!"

The Seeley Lake Nordic Team had three home races at the Seeley Lake Nordic trails: Skiesta, OSCR and the Seeley Lake Biathlon. Laird said the Biathlon grew significantly in its second year and all three races were well attended, competitive and fun. The Seeley Lake Nordic team often had multiple skiers in the top five finishers at the races.

Another component of the program for the Competitive Team was offering Downhill Ski Days for the Competitive Team. They skied Blacktail Mountain, Discovery and Kimberley, BC. Working the Snow Joke aid stations helps fund the Downhill Days.

"We feel it is an important part of our ski program and helps our kids develop as well-rounded skiers," wrote Laird.

In addition to downhill skiing in Canada, the Competitive Team participated in the Kootenay Cup, a two-day race Feb. 7-8.

"The courses in Kimberley were steep and challenging and the competition was probably the best we have encountered," wrote Laird.

Saturday was all classic races. The high schoolers participated in four separate races. This was the first time they had raced classic technique.

"They didn't quite know what to expect, didn't really have the right gear or training for it, but they wanted to give it a try," wrote Laird. "This was extremely physically challenging, but our kids held their own and competed well. Next year they will be more prepared for classic racing and I believe they will enjoy developing their classic skills."

Sunday were the skate races during which time some of the elementary school Competitive Team members joined the race. Third grader Land Neudecker placed in his age division in skate.

"All of our skiers represented the Seeley Lake program well," wrote Laird.

The final race of the season was the 41st annual West Yellowstone Rendezvous. There were 718 racers with age ranging from three-years-old to 93-year-old Charley French who has participated in every Rendezvous since its inception.

The Nordic Team brought 13 racers. Adult racers from the area included Heath Hanson, Brie Guilmette, Tim Swanberg, Darren Zellman and Kim Grover.

Neudecker placed again this time taking the gold for the male 7-8 age group in the 5K race. He finished in 24:25.01, two and a half minutes ahead of his nearest competition.

In the 10K, Owen Hoag and Will Batchelder had an exciting finish within one second of each other. Hoag finished in 31:26.15 for 5th with Batchelder right behind for sixth in 31:27.77.

Also placing in the top five for their age group included: Kimber Hanson, 11:12.24, 4th in 2K race for the male 7-9 age group; Trey Good, 36:05.54, 5th in 5K race for 7-8-year-old males; Ella Batchelder, 40:53.33, 4th in 10K race for 18-24 year old females.

"All the kids skied well and finished with smiles on their faces," wrote Laird. "The conditions were perfect and fast, so lots of happy skiers!"

The local adult racers saw success as well. Hanson claimed the gold for the men in the 45-49 age group for the 10K race with a time of 44:03.71. Zellman took the silver in the men's 40-44 age group for the 25K with a time of 1:09:47.41. Finally, Tim Swanberg earned a bronze for the men's 50-54 age group in the 50K. He finished in 2:33:41.11.

Grover and Guilmette each placed fifth in their age groups for the women in the 25K. Grover finished in 1:32:06.42 followed by Guilmette in 1:42:12.05.

"Last best race of the season in West Yellowstone," wrote Laird. "I could not be more proud of these athletes!"


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