Junior fliers

Steamboat sending 15 Nordic combined skiers to JOs in Minnesota

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— The best Nordic combined skiers in Steamboat Springs have punched their tickets to the Olympics.

Not the ones in Utah, although many of these same athletes will be acting as forejumpers in Park City. Instead, they have qualified for the Junior Olympics, which will take place in Coleraine, Minn., Feb. 25 to March 3.

Topping the list of local Nordic combined skiers going to the event are Alex Miller, Davis Miller, Bryan Fletcher, Taylor Fletcher, Paul Berry, Andreas Aalbu, Niels Morck and Andy Garber.

Seven other athletes qualified to compete in the event but will most likely skip the events in favor of higher international competition.

Nordic combined athletes Ethan Johnson, Adam Schwall, Alex Glueck and Nathan Gerhart are all eligible, along with special jumpers Tommy Schwall, Logan Gerber and Clint Jones.

"A lot of our top J-1 athletes are not going to be going to the Junior Olympics," said Chris Gilbertson, Winter Sports Club coach. "But the way our J-2 athletes are skiing right now, I think we have a shot of repeating what we did in Anchorage in 1999."

In 1999, Winter Sports Club skiers took every medal available at the Junior Olympics.

Gilbertson feels like the local team could repeat, especially with the help of top prospect Bryan Fletcher.

"Our team is a little bit smaller than in the past," Gilbertson said. "But we have some very talented skiers on this squad."

One of the reasons the local team is smaller is because the Rocky Mountain division has very high standards for qualifying.

The skiers' scores must be within 80 percent of the calculated base (the average of the top skiers) in two out of three events.

If they don't, they have to rely on coaches' discretion to make the team.

"We believe in quality in the Rocky Mountain Division, not quantity," Gilbertson said.

The Rocky Mountain Division holds three qualifiers during the course of the year. The final one took place last weekend at Howelsen Hill and the team was named thereafter.

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