Andrews takes big jump toward Junior Worlds
Steamboat Springs — The Nordic Junior World Championships, taking place in Park City, Utah, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the young skiers vying to make the cut.
Most of that is due to the fact that only skiers younger than 20 are allowed to participate, but it goes deeper still.
The last time the United States played host to the event was 1984, in Lake Placid, New York, when this go-around’s competitors were more than a decade from being born.
“World juniors is a huge target. That’s a step toward the ski team. Doing well there can put you onto the ski team,” Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Grant Andrews said Saturday.
Andrews took a big step toward that goal Saturday, charging from third place to win by a comfortable margin at the Winter Start Nordic combined event at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs.
The competition was one of three domestic World Juniors qualifiers scheduled ahead of this year’s event, slated for Jan. 28 through Feb. 5. The next two events are in Park City later this month.
Andrews won with what he said was one of his best jumps. That placed him third at the start of the 10-kilometer cross-country ski race. He made up ground on the leaders, local skiers Decker Dean and Koby Vargas, then broke out on his own. He eventually coasted across the finish line with a fist pump and an exhausted grin, comfortably in first place.
By winning, Andrews — who, like Vargas, now lives and trains in Park City — put himself in great position to make the cut for World Juniors.
“It means so much,” Andrews said. “Winning this puts me one step closer, and it’s just so satisfying.”
Vargas went on to finish second, 13 seconds behind Andrews. Park City skier Tucker Hoefler was third, edging out Dean at the finish line.
Steamboat’s Elijah Vargas was sixth, and Brenden Andrews took eighth.
“Our guys skied great,” said Todd Wilson, Nordic combined director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “I was really happy with the way they jumped, and they’re young guys, and they’re developing as cross country skiers, so to be so tight with some of the older competitors out there, like Grant and Koby, with Decker and Elijah being that close, that was really good.”
That men’s battle for the World Juniors made up only a portion of the day’s competitions, which started with Nordic combined and special jumpers both flying from Steamboat’s large HS100 hill.
Steamboat skiers fared well in a Nordic combined competition off the HS75 jump. Esther DelliQuadri won at the U18 girls level. Annika Belshaw won at the U16 girls level. Bennett Gambe won among the U16 boys. Canden Wilkinson was second, and Erik Belshaw was third.
Annika Belshaw also won in the U16 special jumping competition. Steamboat’s Hana Schrock was second.
DelliQuadri also won again there, as did Gamber. Evan Nichols, from New York, was second in the U16 boys division, and Woody Waugh, of the Central Division, was third.
August Schini, also from the Central Division, was first in the U18 boys class.
Among the U20 women, jumping off the HS100, Cara Larson finished on top. Annika Belshaw was second, and Steamboater Logan Sankey was third.
Casey Larson won on the men’s U20 side. Trevor Edlund was second, and Dean was third.
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Steamboat Springs has produced nearly 100 winter Olympians, more than any other town in North America. That fact is everywhere, plastered on websites and informational boards across town.