Facing a difficult venue and difficult competition, Laramie High School’s Nordic skiing team is set for the state championships Friday and Saturday.

The two-day competition will be held at the Beaver Creek Nordic Ski Area south of Lander on Wyoming Highway 28.

The Plainsmen are the defending state champions, while the Lady Plainsmen took fifth last year.

Head coach Rebecca Watson knows there will be some tough competition.

“I know for sure that Lander is going to be out to win, and they have an incredibly strong program on both sides. Jackson’s going to have all their big guns there, and Natrona is also looking incredibly strong. I’m just looking for a top-four finish for both the men and the women. Of course, we’re going to be trying to defend on the guy’s side. We’ll see what we can do to make that happen.”

Watson calls the state site a challenging one.

“We walk in about a half-mile to get to the start of the races. Then, right off the bat, we have a really intense climb. Its matter of thinking smarter, not harder, and really being strategic about how you race this course. I’m very lucky in that our assistant coach in Brian Sebade grew up in Lander. We’ve got an in, and we’re going to use him as a resource.”

Leading the way for most of the season with both teams was junior Abigail Whitman and senior Sam Fay. Whitman was runner-up in both the classic and freestyle races in 2018. Fay took eighth place in both events a year ago.

Watson said they’ve got to continue what they’ve been doing all season.

“We’ve been talking a lot about backing off the training and allowing themselves to really hit their peak. They’re both doing a great job of that. Just holding themselves back is a hard thing for both of them to do, but they’re doing an excellent job of just scaling it back, and just really going to go into this weekend rested and ready to go.”

Whitman and Fay talked with KOWB’s David Settle for a preview of the state championships. They discussed the preparation, the course, the two different disciplines, strategy, the state meet in general, and more.

Friday’s race will be a 5km classic with the boys starting at 10 a.m. followed by the girls at 11 a.m. Saturday is a 10km freestyle or skate race. The girls begin at 10 a.m. followed by the boys at 11:30 a.m.