Locals win big at NASTAR | SteamboatToday.com

Locals win big at NASTAR

Steamboat skiers bring home once-in-a-lifetime trip with victories

Rob Zehner flies down the See Me trail at Steamboat Ski Area on Sunday in the NASTAR Race of Champions. Zehner won the men's division and earned a trip to South America to train this summer with the U.S. Ski Team.
Joel Reichenberger

— Rob Zehner isn’t exactly sure where to find the medal he won at last year’s NASTAR National Championships Race of Champions.

Maybe his parents’ house, he decided.

Zehner’s not likely to forget the prize he got for winning this year’s race.

The skier, who graduated from Steamboat Springs High School, dominated Sunday’s NASTAR race, the final in the four-day NASTAR National Championships at Steamboat Ski Area.

Steamboat skier Kersten Scherer won the women’s title, and the two competitors with local ties earned trips to Chile to train late this summer with the U.S. Ski Team, which will be on the verge of competing in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

“This is pretty cool,” Zehner said. “It will be cool to walk in their shoes for a couple days as they prepare for the Olympics.”

Zehner, 26, said he’s only a part-time racer at this point, managing to travel from the Front Range to a few Rocky Mountain Masters ski racing events every year, then making it back to Steamboat to ski NASTAR with his family.

He skied for the University of Colorado, but on the school’s club team, not its varsity squad.

Still, he said the opportunity to ski with the country’s best skiers in South America’s Andes Mountains is an opportunity he’ll treasure.

“That’s the trip of a lifetime,” Zehner said. “It will be a great experience to get down there and ski. I’m going to do it for the experience, to see what they do and to get to know a couple of the guys.”

Scherer, meanwhile, hopes the trip leads to more than some good memories.

The 19-year-old Minnesota native moved to Colorado to train with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. She said a trip to South America could be priceless.

“It’s been my goal since I was little to get on the U.S. Ski Team,” she said. “This is another step toward my dream.”

The Race of Champions wrapped up a weekend of NASTAR racing that included more than 1,000 competitors. Racers were divided by gender, age and, finally, ability level, the field being broken into bronze, silver, gold and platinum divisions.

Each racer got four races, two each Friday and Saturday. The champion of each division got an opportunity to race Sunday for a chance to net the overall best time and earn the South American adventure.

Zehner easily won the men’s division, finishing his dash down See Me at Steamboat Ski Area in 28.11 seconds.

Steamboat’s Connor Bernard was second at 29.10 and Sean Munoz, a Wyoming skier who qualified at Beaver Creek, was third with a time of 29.61.

“I felt really good,” said Bernard, who held the lead for a few minutes before Zehner’s run. “It was really suspenseful. I knew Rob was the last guy, and he had a great run.”

Scherer won a much tighter race, finishing at 32.04. Nicole Taylor, from New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley, was second at 32.10 and Caitlin Healey, of Wachusett Mountain in Massachusetts, finished third at 32.34.

“I was late for my run to begin with, so I already had a lot of adrenaline,” Scherer said. “I was conservative on the pitch. It was a good run.”

– To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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