Steamboat Springs Darren Ratcliffe, Michelle Gorgone and Justin Goto Reiter have become the first members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's snowboarding program to earn spots on the U.S. Snowboarding Team's development squad.
"I'm super excited," Ratcliffe said. "But it's just the first step."
The three riders were named to the U.S. Snowboarding development squad earlier this fall and will take part in several camps this winter designed to move them up the ladder. The development team, which is one step below the national B team, has a revolving roster. To stay on the team, riders must post consistently strong results in races that follow each camp.
Ratcliffe and Goto Reiter recently returned from Breckenridge and their first U.S. Snowboarding Team camp. They performed so well, the national coaches have invited both riders to the next camp, which will be held in Park City in early January.
"It's a huge boost," Ratcliffe said. "It's a great opportunity to have great coaching and hopefully make it to the next level."
Ratcliffe joined the Steamboat team two years ago after moving from Summit County, where he was training with another team.
The 18-year-old snowboarder wanted to come to Steamboat to be closer to International Snowboarding Federation junior national coach Mike Mallon.
"Mike is a great coach," Ratcliffe said. "This (the Winter Sports Club's Snowboarding Program) is a great program especially for the money."
Mallon said that having three of his top riders named to the development team was not surprising. He expects several more to make the cut before the season is over.
"Darren is a top-25 (snowboarding) competitor," Mallon said. "He is one of the top junior riders in the sport."
Last season, Ratcliffe was named to the junior national. He decided to compete at a United States Ski and Snowboard Association-sponsored event with hopes of moving up the ski team ladder toward more support.
Goto Reiter is another former Summit County rider who came to Steamboat to learn from Mallon. He has placed consistently in the top 25 of U.S.S.A. level competitions and was 18th at the Junior World Championships last season.
The final local boarder to earn a spot was 17-year-old Gorgone. Last season, Gorgone was 11th in the giant slalom at the U.S. Open in Stratton,Vt., and posted the fastest run of the day on the blue course.
"It's pretty exciting," Gorgone said of making the development squad. "I think it will give me more confidence to ride and train with the other girls on the U.S. Team."
Gorgone said she moved to the Rocky Mountains to be more centrally located. She said Steamboat was a natural choice because of Howelsen Hill and coaches such as Mallon.
Two other local riders, Erica Muller and Adrian Ritter, are both on the bubble of making the U.S. Team's development squad. Mallon thinks both riders have a good shot of making the squad by the time the season comes to an end right now both riders are tied for the final spot on the development team.
Muller is 19 years old and comes from Okemo, Vt. Ritter retired after last season and moved to Mammoth, Calif. However, after hearing she might earn a spot on the development team, she is reconsidering her retirement. One of those riders will be named to the team before the next camp.
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