Alpine U14 Championships a mini Olympics for Rocky and Central region skiers | SteamboatToday.com

Alpine U14 Championships a mini Olympics for Rocky and Central region skiers

Steamboat Springs ski racer Jordan Simon clears a gate near the bottom of the slalom course during USSA Rocky Mountain/Central U14 Alpine Skiing Championships at Howelsen Hill. (File photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Some of the youngest, most elite Alpine skiers were testing their edges at Steamboat Resort on Tuesday.

For the third year in a row, Steamboat Springs is hosting the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Rocky/Central U14 Championships, a four-day competition that showcases the top 12- to 14-year-old Alpine ski racers in the country.

“This is the youngest age where the kids come all together as an entire region of 18 states,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Associate Executive Director Jon Nolting said. “It's their first taste of the big time. We're trying to make this like the Olympics for the kids. Out of the 195 kids competing, chances are one of these kids will be in the Olympics one day. But for the other 190, this might be their only shot at feeling like that.”

Schedule of events

Wednesday, March 13
7 p.m. Opening Ceremonies, Howelsen Hill

Thursday, March 14, Super-G
10 a.m. Girls Super-G race, All Out, Steamboat Resort
11:30 a.m. Boys Super-G race,  All Out, Steamboat Resort
1:15 p.m. Super-G Awards Presentation, Gondola Square Stage, Steamboat Resort

Friday, March 15, Giant Slalom
9:15 a.m. Boys Giant Slalom Race No. 1, All Out, Steamboat Resort
10:30 a.m. Girls Giant Slalom Race No. 1, All Out, Steamboat Resort
1 p.m. Boys Giant Slalom Race No. 2, All Out, Steamboat Resort
2:15 p.m. Girls Giant Slalom Race No. 2, All Out, Steamboat Resort
3:45 p.m. Giant Slalom Awards Presentation, Gondola Square Stage, Steamboat Resort

Saturday, March 16, Parallel Slalom
12:45 p.m. Round of 16, Howelsen Hill face
1:15 p.m. Quarterfinals, Howelsen Hill face
1:30 p.m. Semifinal and Final rounds, Howelsen Hill face
2:45 p.m. Duals Awards Presentation, Howelsen Hill

Sunday, March 17, Slalom
9 a.m. Girls Slalom Race No. 1, Howelsen Hill face
10 a.m. Boys Slalom Race No. 1, Howelsen Hill face
12:30 p.m. Girls Slalom Race No. 2, Howelsen Hill face
1:30 p.m. Boys Slalom Race No. 2, Howelsen Hill face
3 p.m. Overall and Slalom Awards Presentation, Howelsen Hill

The competition, which consists of Super-G, giant slalom, parallel slalom and slalom competitions split between Steamboat Resort and Howelsen Hill, paints the stage of a mini-Olympics.

Events kick off at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, with Opening Ceremonies, complete with fireworks.

This is the first event for athletes younger than 14 that requires a form of qualification, meaning it’s an accomplishment to even make it to the championships.

The Winter Sports Club doesn’t like to put emphasis on skiers’ performance at such a young age but wants to provide an atmosphere that motivates skiers to continue in the sport and reach for the highest levels.

“It's great to be really good now, but if you're not on that podium and you keep working hard, then your time will come,” Nolting said “There are some kids from this group who will go to the Olympics, just can't tell who.”

Nolting said there were good skiers who didn’t qualify for the championships, and at this age, a common disadvantage can also be the physical size of the skier. To account for the gravitational disadvantage, an award called the “little ripper” is given to the fastest skier at under 95 pounds.

The Rocky/Central U14 Championships consists of skiers from 16 states, and part of the fun is seeing skiers from different places and how they measure up against the competition.

“There's an element to it that's extremely overwhelming,” Winter Sports Club Alpine director Adam Chadbourne said about hosting the competition. “Steamboat Resort is a wonderful partner in the event. They really step up their efforts and host a lot of families.”

The Winter Sports Club will have 11 ski racers competing, including Audra Gowdy, Adi Lage, Karenna Westermeyer, Rylee McLouth, Jonah Fleischer, Dawson Holmes, Jeremy Nolting, Alex Orozco, Fisher St. John, Jack Fox and Spencer Richeda.

“It's super exciting, especially being on our home hill and hosting this big event,” Winter Sports Club U14 Alpine head coach Michael Britton said.

Athletes will participate in official training on Wednesday, and competition kicks off at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 14, with the Super-G at Steamboat Resort.

“We really want to showcase what the Winter Sports Club is all about,” Britton said. “The community factor is so big. The community comes out and supports the race whether or not they support the racer.”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.

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