Steamboat Springs Fifteen-year-old classic and freestyle skier Austin Ross takes a big step in his career today when he departs Steamboat Springs for Michigan's Upper Peninsula to compete in the 2001 Junior Olympics.
Ross, who is a freshman at Steamboat Springs High School, will be joined by fellow Steamboat skiers Jessica Philip and Mark Iverson.
The Junior Olympics, which Superiorland Cross Country Ski Club will play host to, runs March 5-10 at the Suicide Bowl in Ishpeming, Mich., which is near Marquette by Lake Superior.
Iverson and Philip, who are the older juniors, will compete in the 18-and-older division.
Ross will ski in the J-2 division, which is the 15-and-under age category.
The three skiers will represent the Rocky Mountain Division.
Philip and Ross qualified for the Junior Olympics by finishing within 7 percent of the top-3 finishers' times at least four meets this season.
Iverson, a longtime member of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club who now trains in Anchorage, Alaska, qualified for the Junior Olympics by way of his results at the senior nationals in McCall, Idaho, this season.
Philip recently won the Colorado High School State 5K Classic Championship.
Ross, who will be gunning for a top-30 position next week, will take part in a number of events, including the 5K Long Distance Race at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
"I'd really like to get into the top 30, but that might be out of reach," Ross said. "There's a very high level of competition, but I think it will be really fun."
Brian Tate, the skiers' cross-country coach, says the events will be challenging for the athletes.
"It's a physically demanding week because they're racing so many times in a shortened period of time," Tate said. "But our training is geared so they're at their top physical peak at this point in the year."