Top local skaters off to Denver

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— This weekend Steamboat Springs skater Jenny Spencer will head to Denver hoping to bring back a title in one of the state's most prestigious figure skating events.

"It's a lot harder than our last competition in Pueblo," Spencer said. "I won there for the first time and I'm really hoping to do just as well in Denver."

But Spencer and 14 other skaters from Steamboat know winning at the Denver Invitational, which will take place March 8 through 10, isn't easy.

The local club includes about 60 skaters but only the top 15 have qualified to compete in Denver.

It is the second major figure skating competition in less than a month for the local club. In February, 28 members traveled to another event in Pueblo.

"These are our top skaters," local coach Kim Haggarty said. "This (the Denver Invitational) is a very elite competition."

Haggarty said the Invitational will attract about 600 skaters from around the region to compete in spins, compulsory moves and free-skating competitions.

The local club will be represented by Stephanie Sleboda, Spencer, Jamie Jones, Jessie Cannon, Elise Krueger, Alex Morrison, Brittainy Slade, Korie Steitz, Hayley Sugarman, Kelly Ascher, MacKenzie Frank, Katie Hanson, Allison Lewis, Kelsy Comeau and Katie Krueger.

Katie Krueger, one of the local program's best skaters, will be unable to compete this weekend after suffering an injury while snowboarding earlier this winter.

"She will be down there with us watching the competition, but she will not be skating," Haggarty said. "It's too bad, she's one of our best skaters."

The figure skating club is coming off of a recent competition in Pueblo where several Steamboat skaters took top honors at the Mid Winter Invitational, which was held Feb. 16-18.

Among the top finishers were Jamie Jones, who took first place in the preliminary ladies compulsory moves and the preliminary ladies free skate.

Her teammate, Spencer collected the top spot in the pre-juvenile ladies compulsory moves. Spencer was also second in the pre-juvenile ladies spins and free skate competitions.

"To win in the compulsory you have to perform the required elements almost perfectly," Spencer said. "A lot of the other girls (who skated after me fell), so I felt like I had a pretty good chance at winning."

The 12-year-old Steamboat skater nailed an axel loop, camel sit, Lutz and Ina Bauer to win the event. Spencer explained that all of the skaters must complete the task in less than a minute in this event.

She also placed well in the free skate, which is closer to a short program where skaters complete required moves to music. Both events were judged by a panel of five officials.

In all Steamboat skaters took three first-place, nine-second places and 16 third-place medals at the Pueblo competition. Making the program's director, Haggarty very proud.

"All of our skaters performed their best and represented Steamboat well," Haggarty said.

There was also a basic skill competition on Sunday and Steamboat had five skaters who competed for the first time, including Laura Holthenhausen, Landen Mertz, Abby Lewis, Kassidy Fischer and Kenna Bogue.

The advanced skaters in the local figure skating club meet seven times a week. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the club meets at the Howelsen Ice Arena at 6:30 a.m. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the club normally meets in the afternoon.

Haggarty said she is not only impressed by the number of skater who come out for the program, but even more by the levels some athletes are starting to reach.

Spencer plans on skating in Colorado Springs this summer to keep her competitive edge once the local rink closes down.

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com.

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