US Open event spotlights Steamboat snowboarders, juniors | SteamboatToday.com

US Open event spotlights Steamboat snowboarders, juniors

Local snowboarders, from left, Paul Brichta, Taylor Gold, Arielle Gold, Nik Baden, Cody Warble (of Vail), Carter Smalley, Madeline Schaffrick recently returned from the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships in Stratton Mountain.

Thirteen-year-old Arielle Gold was so happy about winning last year's Junior Jam title at the 2009 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships in Stratton, Vt., that she decided to try it again in 2010.

"I wanted to go out with a bang," Gold said about keeping the title she won last year.

Steamboat Springs' Gold dominated the competition and successfully defended the Junior Jam title, which is a division limited to riders 13 and younger, Sunday at the U.S. Open. Her score was 10 points better than runner-up Ty Walker, of Stowe, Vt.

Riders from Steamboat also fared well in the boys Junior Jam competition, with Carter Smalley taking second and Nikolas Baden placing third. Smalley lives in Steamboat but does not train with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

The Junior Jam finishes highlighted a strong showing for local riders at the championships, which drew 300 top riders from across the country and the world to Vermont from March 15 to 21, but the team also rode well in the open divisions of the halfpipe competition.

"As individuals, the SteamĀ­boat athletes' results were pretty impressive, but as a group, all of these athletes were on top of their game," coach Ashley Berger said. "I'm really proud of how they stepped up to another level and performed."

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Five Steamboat athletes advanced to the semifinals of the halfpipe event: Arielle Gold, Taylor Gold, Paul Brichta, Matt Ladley and Maddy Schaffrick.

"I think the most exciting thing was making it to the semifinals of the open division," Arielle Gold said. "It was fun just to compete in the same event as those older girls and to make it to the semis in the open event and see some of my older friends."

One of her older teammates, Schaffrick, not only made it to the finals, but also was one of the favorites after qualifying second behind Olympian Kelly Clark, who won the gold in 2002 and the bronze this year. Schaffrick didn't have her best runs in the finals, however, and finished eighth.

Arielle Gold also advanced to the semifinals before being knocked out of the competition. She finished 17th overall. Gold said the finish has her excited for next year, and she said the competition gave her and several of her teammates a chance to work on new tricks.

"It's the end of the year, so this is a chance to just go for it and to see what you can do," she said.

On the men's side, Ladley qualified 10th and ended up 16th in the final results. Taylor Gold and Brichta advanced to the semifinals. Gold finished 32nd, and Brichta was 36th.

Arielle Gold said she was already preparing for the USASA Nationals, scheduled for April 5 to 10 at Copper Mountain Resort, where she plans to ride in the open class. Berger said a large contingent of riders from Steamboat Springs was expected to compete at those championships, which are the largest in the United States. The event is normally the final snowboarding competition of the winter.

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