Steamboat hosting championship week for junior Nordic and Alpine skiers | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat hosting championship week for junior Nordic and Alpine skiers

Ben Ingersoll

— With nearly three weeks of home training under their belts, the Rocky Mountain Division Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic combined junior athletes will quickly find out if home-course advantage is on their side.

Starting Thursday, the club will welcome four other divisions’ skiers from across the United States to Howelsen Hill for the ski jumping and Nordic combined 2015 Junior Nationals. It’s the first time Steamboat has played host to the championships in five seasons.

"We’ve had a good couple weeks here at home," Winter Sports Club Nordic combined U18/U16 coach Karl Denney said. "We’ve had plenty of time on our home hill. Basically, the kids know this jump and course like the back of their hands."

Club skiers from the Eastern, Central, Alaska and Intermountain divisions are already in Steamboat, set for Tuesday’s training sessions, Tuesday evening’s opening ceremonies and Wednesday’s official training. A total of 55 athletes across the five divisions will square off in five events.

Steamboat’s U20 men’s team and the club’s U18 and U16 men’s and women’s squads have been gearing up for Nationals since their final qualifying competition on Feb. 14.

"We’ve even had a week off school to concentrate on training," Denney said, speaking about the recent mid-winter break across Steamboat schools. "This past week has been a taper week."

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Thursday’s Nordic combined and special jumping first competition jump sessions will kick off at 10 a.m. on Howelsen’s HS-75. The 5-kilometer cross country portion, which starts at the rodeo grounds, will follow at 3 p.m.

On Friday, a round of team special jumping will take place on the HS-75 with four athletes’ combined jumps scored for an overall winner. The team special jumping will be followed by the 2-by-3K cross country team sprint relays, also at the rodeo grounds at 6 p.m.

On Saturday, competition wraps up with an HS-75 elimination jump at 11 a.m. The podium ceremony will follow immediately thereafter, and the nationals awards banquet will be held at 5 p.m. at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Home event organizers used the Feb. 14 Junior National qualifier at Howelsen as a bit of a trial run so they aren’t blindsided by hosting such a big junior event this week. With a little bit of inclement weather expected early on in the week, Denney said the club is ready for anything.

"That qualifier was only a few weeks ago, and it was basically a practice run," Denney said. "We treated that as if we were hosting this event. We can keep up with the weather. We’ve been doing it all season."

Steamboat also home to U16 Alpine championships

Steamboat Ski Area and Howelsen Hill will host the top U16 Alpine ski racers from the Rocky Mountain and Central divisions this week for the Alpine Junior Championships.

“This is the highlight of their season,” said Caroline Lalive Carmichael, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine director. “It’s an exciting opportunity for all of the racers. Our athletes will get to race against the top skiers from the Central Division, which is something they don’t get to do the rest of the season.”

The junior championships, which used to be known as the Junior Olympic Championships, are a chance for young skiers to move up the ladder to FIS racing and maybe even the ranks of the U.S. Ski Team someday.

Nearly 200 14-, 15-, and 16-year-old boys and girls skiers will compete in three different disciplines from Wednesday through Saturday.

Downhill training has already begun at Steamboat Ski Area’s Vagabond race course in anticipation for Wednesday’s Super G boys and girls event. The ski area’s Sitz/See Me course will be host Thursday to the boys giant slalom and Friday to the girls GS.

Howelsen Hill will cap off the week’s championships with the boys and girls slalom on Saturday.

Along with the Nordic combined and special jumping Junior Nationals, the U16 Alpiners will participate in Tuesday’s opening ceremonies at Howelsen’s base. There will be a fireworks display, and the athletes will be involved in a ceremonial torch lighting.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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