Skier credits practice for performance
Steamboat Springs — The sport of ski racing is normally measured in seconds, but the winner of Saturday’s slalom preferred to judge his performance in terms of years.
It’s understandable because for Jace Wirth, one year has made a big difference.
“Last year, he was our last racer to qualify for the Junior Olympics,” coach Scott Wither said. “This year, he was at the top of his age class. It doesn’t take long for this age group to turn on the jets.”
In his first J-4 Junior Olympic appearance in 2002, Wirth was the 85th skier to start the slalom and he finished 28th in the final results. It was his best showing in the five Junior Olympic events.
On Saturday, Wirth returned to Howelsen Hill determined that this year would be different.
The extra year, and his improving results, helped him move into a group of the top skiers in the field. He started Saturday’s slalom races in the No. 8 and No.1 positions, respectively.
“I was very happy with my second run,” Wirth said. “It felt like I was flying.”
In fact, the Steamboat skier set the mark to beat as he made his way down the hill in a blazing time of 41.72 seconds.
Over the next hour, 104 other skiers tried to beat his time –all of them failed.
Michael Ankeny of Sports Hut came the closest to Wirth, finishing his run with a time of 42.39 to take second. Aspen’s Sam Coffey also gave Wirth a run for his money, but settled for third with a time of 42.67.
“It was a great day for all of our skiers,” Wither said. “They showed a tremendous amount of intensity and focus. I think most of them will use this event as a stepping stone for bigger things in the future.”
Four local skiers placed in the top 20 of the event, including Taylor Coe in ninth, Nelson Kane in 12th, and Hig Roberts in 13th place showings. Steamboat’s Joshua Fix was 28th, Adam Parke was 33rd, Ryan McConnell was 35th and Andrew White crossed the finish line in 39th.
Wirth also led the Winter Sports Club skiers in the first race of the day with a third-place showing.
Ankeny won the race in a time of 39.27. Team Casanova’s Christopher Acosta grabbed second place with a time of 41.63 and Wirth collected his second of three podiums on the week with a time of 41.94.
Steamboat’s Taylor Coe was sixth, Roberts was 13th and Kane was 18th. Other local finishers included Ryan Coe in 24th, Joshua Fix in 37th, Andrew White in 53rd, Michael Lyon in 55th and Mac Marsh in 56th.
“It was pretty much the same course, but I was able to trim some time off my second run, and those other guys didn’t,” Wirth said.
However, Wirth said he would have been happy with the showing even if he hadn’t won.
He admitted, as he waited at the bottom of the hill, that it wouldn’t have mattered if he had been knocked off the podium because he felt like he had given the run his best effort.
“I went as fast as I could,” he said. “I guess if I don’t get a top three or somebody pushes me out, I’ll know that I tried my hardest.”
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