Locals fly high at aerials

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— Maryann Skraba returned from Big Mountain, Mont., on Monday as the top girl upright aerial skier in the nation.

Skraba earned the crown at last week's Junior Olympic Championships, which were held in Big Mountain March 5-12. Since there isn't an upright competition this week at the Chevy Truck U.S. Freestyle Championships , the top junior in the country retains the title. Those national championships, which include moguls, inverted aerials and dual moguls, will take place March 16-18 in Waterville Valley, N.H.

Skraba's finish at the Junior Olympics highlighted a week of solid results for the members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Skraba not only earned the upright titles in the aerial events on March 8, but she was third in the final overall combined standings (first in her age division) and also posted a fifth-place finish in the dual mogul event which was held March 10.

"Maryann definitely stood out," coach Tarsha Ebbern said. "Most of our kids had personal bests."

Other top finishers on the girls side included Candice White, who posted a seventh overall finish in the junior moguls on March 9, and 17th in the duals. She was the fourth-best J-2 in the single mogul event. Patty Hanley also looked solid placing 27th overall in the mogul event and 17th for J-3 girls.

The Steamboat men also fared well in the events.

Kyle Ewing placed fourth in the upright aerials, which were held on March 8 for J-2 boys and was 11th overall. Luke Belz was seventh in the J-2 class and 18th overall.

Collin Shinabarker led the local team in the single moguls event with a fifth-place finish. Charlie MacArthur was 22nd in the overall standings and eighth in the J-2 class. He missed going to the finals by just one spot.

"It was a good race," MacArthur said. "I wish I could have made the cut. But that's how things work out sometimes.

MacArthur was was followed in the standings by J-2 teammates Ewing who was 26th and ninth; and Luke Belz who came in 33rd and 13th. Steamboat's J-3 representative Nick Bucci was 39th and seventh among J-3s.

"As a team I think everybody was pretty happy," MacArthur said.

He added that the weather in Big Mountain was pretty good for he week. The first two days, which were reserved for practice, were sunny and warm. Things clouded up a bit for the competitions, but MacArthur said that's normal.

"Sure it was a little overcast, but the snow was nice and soft," he said.

Both Skraba and White earned the right to advance to a national qualifying event this week, but passed on the opportunity.

"They would have had to buy tickets and catch the red-eye to make it," Ebbern said. "They opted to come home."

Ebbern thinks that both of the athletes, who are young, will get their shots at the nationals in the future. She supported their decision to pass on the qualifiers this time around.

In all Steamboat had eight skiers compete at the Junior Olympic Championships and nine qualify for the event. Steamboat's Paul Khuri was unable to compete because of an injury.

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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