Steamboat Springs Mogul skier Lauren Crawford headed to Winter Park last week with high hopes but very few expectations.
Which explains why the freestyle skier was so excited when she learned that a pair of third-place finishes at the U.S. Ski Team selection events in Winter Park had earned her a spot on the American team.
"I didn't even know how many spots were open on the team or what you needed to do to get one," Crawford said. "Really, I didn't even think I was in the running for a spot because I had skied so poorly at a regional event just a few days earlier."
But timing is everything and things came together for Crawford during the first of two mogul events to help determine which future stars should have a shot at the American team.
She laid down a solid run to score 24.69 points. The result put her in third in the final standings behind the event winner American Laurel Shanely (25.14) and second place finisher Sylvia Kerfoot from Canada.
"I don't really know what happened," Crawford said of the midweek turnaround. "I haven't been on snow that much the past couple of years and maybe things are just starting to come back to me."
Crawford missed most of last season with a bad back and she was also on the sideline for most of the preseason after having her Wisdom teeth pulled.
"I was in so much pain that I just couldn't ski," Crawford said.
So Crawford said she felt a little rusty when she stepped onto the slopes for the first Rocky Mountain Division meet a week ago. But by the time the selection events rolled around, she was ready to go.
She proved it again on Dec. 14 when she backed up her first result with another third ? this time finishing behind American winner Hannah Kearney (27.33) and runner-up Jessica Davis (26.12). Crawford was third at 25.76.
The two top results have vaulted Crawford into the ranks of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team's development squad. She is now qualified to ski in several upcoming NorAm events, including one in Winter Park this Thursday, and hopefully two World Cup events, which are scheduled for North America in January and February. Those starts could depend on the number of FIS points she has at the time of the events.
"I've never skied in a World Cup event before," Crawford said. "It would be great to get a start here in Steamboat Springs."
Crawford is just one of several Steamboat skiers who have earned NorAm starts this season based on top finishes in the selection events.
"It was a really good weekend for our skiers," coach Erik Skinner said. "We came away with seven NorAm spots out of nine athletes, which is very good. Lauren was really consistent from top to bottom, which is why she scored so well."
In addition to Crawford's top finishes, Eliza Outtrim also recorded a 16th and fifth at the selection events. Carly Gmeiner was sixth in the first event and 10th in the other and Erika Damon had a pair of top-20 finishes in Winter Park.
On the men's side, Chris Pusey highlighted the selection events by winning a dual event on Dec. 15.
Jordan Chivarelli was 11th, Pusey was 14th and Andrew Deubel placed 16th in a single mogul event on Dec. 12. Nathan Roberts was the top American skier in the event.
In the second mogul event on Dec. 14, Deuble led the local finishers with a third, Jarrett Arguelles was 17th and Chivarelli was 20th. Fred Mooney won the event.
Those skiers will all head back to Winter Park this week for a pair of NorAm events on Dec. 19 and Dec. 21.
"I hope I can keep skiing well," Crawford said. "It's still pretty early, but I'm hoping that I can do well and possibly make a run at the NorAm Grand Prix title."
? To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org