Steamboat Springs Junior skier Ethan Johnson, 15, of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club took advantage of a chance to ski with the big boys Saturday and skated to first place in his division of the WinterStart Nordic combined competition at Howelsen Hill.
Matt Dayton of the U.S. Ski Team and Breckenridge won the senior division in impressive fashion.
The classy field included a half-dozen members of the U.S. World Cup B Team, as well as a similar number of the Czechoslovakian World Cup B Team.
The two national squads came from Park City, Utah, where they are training for competitions later this week.
The cross-country race was structured so the junior competitors started with the senior racers out of parallel starting gates.
That gave Johnson a chance to start head-to-head with Czechoslovakia's Jan Matura, who won the ski jumping among the seniors.
Johnson latched on to the older Czech and never gave up the lead he'd taken over the other juniors in the ski jumping phase of the competition.
"I kind of liked having the guy who started with me the Czech guy, because I was able to stay with him to the top of the big hill, before he dropped me," Johnson said.
Johnson owned a 43-second lead over Anders Johnson of Park City after the ski jumping, but the real threats were the Camerota brothers, Brett and Eric, of Park City even though they started 2:30 and 3:15 back, respectively.
Brett Camerota made up a minute on Johnson in the 7.5 kilometer ski race to climb into second place, but the lead Johnson had built in the jumping held up.
"I had two good jumps," Johnson said. "I felt good about my jumps. They weren't the best that I can do, but they were better than I have been jumping."
Dayton was the story in the senior race.
Ranked second after the ski jumping, Dayton made up a 42-second time penalty and passed up Matura in the first 2.5 kilometers of a 10K race.
Kris Erichsen, also of the U.S. Ski Team, passed Matura on the course and finished 1:53 behind Dayton.
Dayton said the WinterStart in Steamboat was good preparation for next week's World Cup B races at the 2002 Olympic venue in Utah, where a full international field will be on hand.
"I hope to place in the top five or top 10," Dayton said.
The top 10 spots in the senior race were dominated by the Americans. Following Matura, in fourth place, was Carl Van Loan of the U.S. Ski Team, 2:16 behind the leader.
His teammate, Jed Hinkley placed fifth, followed by Matt Cook of the Rocky Mountain Division, Czech Vladimir Smid in seventh and Alex Glueck of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club in eighth, 4:35 behind Dayton.
Glueck placed 12th in ski jumping, but had a strong cross-country race to move up four spots.
Nathan Gerhart, also from the local Winter Sports Club, placed 10th and Steamboat's Adam Schwall placed 13th out of 18 athletes.
Among the juniors, Bryan Fletcher of Steamboat skied well, placing fourth, 5:15 behind Johnson, and Steamboat's Alex Miller wound up eighth, 11:34 back.
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