Steamboat Springs A handful of competitors showed up at the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex on Wednesday for the first day of the Rocky Mountain Division Freestyle Championships.
"It's kind of a big competition, but it's not huge," Steamboat aerialist Luke Belz said. "There are quite a few guys here that are pretty good."
The upright aerials drew eight women and 15 men all looking for crowns in the first of four championship events this week. Remaining events are the junior moguls today, the open moguls on Friday and the dual mogul event Saturday. Winter Sports Club coach Bobby Aldighieri said there will be a field of about 40 men and 25 women in each of the mogul events.
The coach said the field in the upright aerial event was smaller, but the competition still was just intense.
The women's event was won by Lauren Rainen of the University of Colorado freestyle team. She topped local favorite Erica Damon for the title on the women's side with a score of 102.69. Damon was second at 100.87 points and Gina Gmeiner came in third with a score of 99.52. Candice White was fourth at 86.08.
"It was going to be tough to beat Lauren," Aldighieri said. "She was going big and doing some pretty solid tricks."
However, the coach was proud of his Steamboat skiers who captured three out of the top four spots in the event.
"It was a great showing for Erica," Aldighieri said. "Candice White also had a good day."
Steamboat also dominated on the men's side, however, it was another Boulder skier grabbing the top honors.
University of Colorado skier Guy Nickerson won the event with two impressive jumps. He nailed a helicopter, iron cross, spread on his first attempt. Then came out in the second round and hit a helicopter, iron cross, Zudnik spread to wrap up the competition with a score of 126.61.
Steamboat's Jarrett Arguelles gave the Buffalo a run, however, also throwing a pair of helicopter, iron cross jumps on his efforts for a total of 115.66.
Arguelles was joined at the top of the results by teammates Luke Belz in third (115.53) and Kyle Ewing (111.71) in fourth. Local freestyle skier Nick Bucci also placed 10th in the event.
Aldighieri said the day was a solid showing for the local team especially Belz who kept the pace with some older, more experienced jumpers.
"I'm really happy with my finish," Belz said after the competition. "I just went out there and did my jump. I wasn't too concerned about the other skiers or how old they were."
The championships will continue today on the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area with the junior moguls event. The first run is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Voodoo.
"I'm really looking forward to the moguls," Aldighieri said. "We will have a bunch of skiers out there who should do real well."
Aldighieri expects Logan Belz, Nick Bucci and Charlie MacArthur to all be in the running on the men's side. Look for Gmeiner and Damon to be among the top finishers on the girls side.
Rocky Mountain Division Freestyle Championships at Steamboat Feb. 28
Women 1, Lauren Rainen, 102.69, 2, Erica Damon, 100.87; 3, Gina Gmeiner, 99.52; 4, Candice White, 86.08; 6, Britany Bielbl, 76.07; 7, Maryann Skraba, 25.17; 8, Carly Gmeiner, dns.
Men 1, Guy Nickerson, 126.61; 2, Jarrett Arguelles, 115.66; 3, Luke Belz, 115.53; 4, Kyle Ewing, 111.71; 5, Dusty Spence, 110.54; 6, Travis Redd, 105.20; 7, David Mcdonald, 103.68; 8, Eric Lehman, 102.62; 9, Jackson Horn 95.15; 10, Nick Bucci, 93.30; 11, Christopher Schumacher, 93.17; 12, Andrew Wickes, 88.81; 13, Glen Engleman, 78.92.