Students get a golden opportunity

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— Elementary school students in the Steamboat Springs School District will have cowbells and American flags in hand welcoming some of the world's greatest Nordic Combined skiers Tuesday at Howelsen Hill.

About 1,000 students will be the majority of the crowd on television at the 2001 World Cup competition that will air on NBC.

Second-grader Dillon Tipton said he is going to the Olympic Nordic Combined competition in Salt Lake City this year and can't wait to follow in the footsteps of these prominent athletes.

"I was in the Steamboat Cup," the Strawberry Park Elementary School student said.

Tipton said he's learned how to jump from his own Nordic Combined coach.

Friend Jace Worden said he also is going to Tuesday's competition and is looking forward to the event.

"I'm pretty darn sure I'm going," Worden said as the two munched on carrots and sandwiches. "I think the best part is when they're in midair."

While some may think students belong in the classroom, many teachers say they think this worldwide experience is a memory that will last a lifetime.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer said she thinks it's an exceptional opportunity for students to see a World Cup.

"Literally, they get to walk from their school out the door to the World Cup," Wiedemer said. "And I think this year they're bringing more students than ever."

Kindergartners through fifth-graders from Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementaries and Lowell Whiteman Primary School will attend the Tuesday morning events at Howelsen Hill.

Mark Hoovler, fourth-grader at Soda Creek, said while it's fun to get out of school, it's important to keep warm.

"Your toes will get cold and we can't go into the lodge, so I recommend bringing your warmest stuff," Hoovler said. "It's actually pretty cool."

The U.S. Nordic Combined Team visited Soda Creek Thursday and students gave them a special gift of song, "Go for the Gold."

Jan Acker, first-grade teacher at Strawberry Park Elementary, said she's a real travel buff and thinks opening up children to the world, its cultures and its geography is something the United States has slacked on in education.

"My family is hosting the Austrian ski team so I'm trying to connect my students with stories," Acker said.

Acker said Strawberry Park has developed a way to tie in the upcoming Olympics with different school subjects. For instance, Acker has assigned her students to follow Steamboat Olympians in Salt Lake City this winter.

"You can tie it in to math, writing, geography," Acker said.

In past years when the World Cup was held in Steamboat, Acker said the schools only would let out the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students because those students were easier to handle. However, this year, all elementary school students will join other spectators and boost support for local athletes this year.

"I think living in a ski town and getting to see different countries get together and see the different flags is really important for kids," Acker said. "Especially with the Olympics being in Utah this year, this should be neat."

Acker said some of the freestyle skiers came to the school to talk to students about motivation and persevering.

Acker said she thinks those moments are incredibly important and that is why it will be nice for children to see these people compete.

Jeanne Lodwick, a fourth-grade teacher at Soda Creek Elementary and mother of Nordic Combined ski racer Todd Lodwick, said giving children the chance to see a World Cup in their hometown is something most children never get to experience.

"Going to the World Cup and seeing a competition is absolutely incredible," Lodwick said.

Lodwick said the event is math-related because of the scoring techniques.

Students learn how to score: five judges judge on a 20-point scale, throw out the high and low scores, add the three remaining scores together and add in distance points.

"The guy with the most points wins. Then you take the points and convert them into time," Lodwick said. "It's understanding the whole sport."

In years past, Lodwick has brought in her son's equipment to show them what is used in a professional sport such as Nordic Combined.

Learning foreign names, the design of each country's flag and simply being around foreigners is helpful for the children, Lodwick said.

"They get to see the people and hear all the languages," Lodwick said. "This is the Olympic field. This is exactly who they will see at the Olympics on TV."

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