Locals skiers race well in Utah

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— Who could blame Emily Heller if she has mixed feelings about the U.S. Ski Team's selection events?

The Steamboat Springs skier came back from a bad leg injury suffered during a selection event two years ago to win a mogul competition at the selections this year.

But the win wasn't enough to earn her a spot on the U.S. team.

Heller blew out her knee competing in a selection event two winters ago. It ended what had been a promising season.

After a year of recovery and competition, Heller returned to the Snowbird, Utah, slopes and skied to a first-place finish in the Dec. 19 dual mogul event.

"Emily skied very, very well," Steamboat coach Bobby Aldighieri said.

"It was exciting," the 20-year-old freestyle skier said of the dual format run that pitted her against Breckenridge's Katherine Lynch. "I've skied against her a lot since we are in the same division. There were not a lot of surprises."

Heller said she just tried to ski her own race for the first two thirds of the championship run. She was trailing Lynch heading into the second air, but then things took a promising turn for the Steamboat skier.

"She fell, so then I knew I had a pretty good chance," Heller said.

Heller concentrated on nailing her last air and making sure her turns were perfect in the final stretch and it paid off with her first moguls win ever.

"It's hard in duals not to get caught up trying to beat the other guy," Heller said. "I just tried to focus on my own race."

The Winter Sports Club sent 15 athletes to the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah to take part in the selection events. Although none of the local racers were immediately picked for the national squad, top finishes were recorded by Heller and teammates Lauren Crawford and Willie Boyle.

Crawford was third in the opening singles event of the competition. She also was ninth in the second singles event and fourth in the first of two dual events.

"I just played it safe in the singles events," Crawford said. "If you crash there, then you are pretty much done."

The strategy paid off on the opening day when Crawford finished third in an event won by former Winter Sports Club skier Lindley Hord. Hord has moved to Denver and now skis with the Summit County ski team.

Crawford said she was nervous when the events started, but her top finish in the opening race helped her relax in some of the later events

"Starting the events that way gave me a lot of confidence," Crawford said, adding that the strong start carried over into later races.

"I was really excited with the way I skied," the Lowell-Whiteman student said. "I was hoping to get a US. Ski Team spot, but I was psyched with the way I skied and it was a good week."

Both Crawford and Heller said they will continue to compete in several regional events and NorAms slated for February.

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