Steamboat wins big at national championships

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— Twenty-two members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club just returned from the United States Amateur Snowboarding Association's National Championships, toting with them a truckload of medals and an even longer list of top-5 finishes.

Steamboat collected 16 medals at the annual end-of-season championships, held in Waterville Valley, N.H. from March 27 to April 1.

"Personally, I think this was a break through for the club," local snowboarder Justin Goto said. "Now people from around the country... are looking at Colorado and Steamboat and taking notice of the program."

The Steamboat team had 18 athletes post top-5 finishes in individual events. Four athletes finish second in the overall standings and another two won bronze medals in the overall categories.

"The Steamboat athletes have had an amazing progression this year," freestyle coach Spencer Tamblyn said. "The level of riding has risen two-fold during the course of the season."

Topping the list at last weekend's finishes were Goto in the Jams (18-22) division and Beth Fletcher in the women's open division.

"It was just a lot of fun," newly crowned champion Fletcher said. "New Hampshire wasn't the greatest, but we made the best of it."

Goto won the national title in the slalom event, held April 1. The Steamboat boarder said he changed his approach to the race.

"It is the first time this year I've been able to put two runs together without blowing up," Goto said. "I took a more conservative approach to my racing and it paid off."

Goto's two-run time of 50.65 seconds moved him past Oxygen rider Brad Dumas for the slalom crown. Dumas finished in second at 53.76.

Goto also led the first run of the giant slalom, held March 31. A crash on the second run forced him to settle for a fifth-place finish.

Steamboat's other new champion is Fletcher, who placed first in the open class in the boarder-cross event on March 31. She was just coming off of a fourth-place showing in the USSA championships in Vermont and wasn't planning on taking part in the USASA Nationals.

"It's been a pretty long season, so, I wasn't going to compete, just watch," she said. "But, that morning I woke up and said 'OK, lets go compete.'"

The change of heart paid off as Fletcher survived the quarterfinals and semifinal rounds of the boarder-cross event. She then topped the field of the championship round for the win.

"I've been going to really big comps all season, so this wasn't a big deal," she said. "But it is always nice to win."

In the overall results, Lex Carrigan-Koski, who is in the breaker (12- to 13-year-old) division, placed third in both the triple (all events combined) and overall combined results. Tori Carrigan-Koski, who was competing in the breaker division, was second in both the triple and overall combined results. Jason Eddington was fifth in the triple overall results for the breakers and Goto was second in the overall combined in the Jams. Steamboat's Austin Rice was also second in the overall combined for the junior men.

The USASA Nationals are the biggest (in terms of competitors) end-of season championship which included several age divisions. The competition covers five days. Athletes in different age classes are rotated around the different venues such as slalom, giant slalom, boarder-cross, slope style and halfpipe from day-to-day. Steamboat sent 22 athletes this year -- the most ever.

There are two different snowboarding organizations in the United States each hosted a national championship. The other major championships are hosted by the USSA which tends to invite a smaller and more elite field of snowboarders.

A group of six Steamboat Springs snowboarders competed in those USSA Nationals In Okemo, Vt. March 24-26.

Beth Fletcher highlighted the local results with a fourth-place finish in the boarder cross event.

The only other female rider was Adryan Ritter who was 10th in the giant slalom and 11th in the slalom.

Steamboat also sent four men to the event. Austin Rice's 21st-place finish in the giant slalom was the best. Justin Goto was 23rd in the slalom, Jason Jameson was 27th in the slalom and 30th in the giant slalom and Keenan Rice was 27th in the halfpipe.

Steamboat Springs coach Mike Mallon said both the American and Canadian teams were present at the event so the competition was fierce.


-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@amigo.net

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