Over the Hill Gang helps athlete

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Financial assistance from the Over the Hill Gang will help freeskier Gina Gmeiner pay for 10 to 12 competitions this winter.

The 19-year-old Colorado Mountain College student said the $750 scholarship and the results from the competitions it helps pay for could be the difference in making it to the Winter X Games or the U.S. Open.

"It's awesome," Gmeiner said. "It means so much. I'm just so grateful to the Over the Hill Gang and the members of the community who support us."

Gmeiner is one of 12 skiers to receive scholarships from the Over the Hill Gang this year. The Gang received 35 applications and handed out $9,000 to the winners.

"This is our attempt to help out the young athletes here in Steamboat," said Rocco Laterzo, the chairman of the financial assistance committee. "It's not just the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. We offer financial assistance to every winter athlete here in Steamboat, including skiers, ice skaters and hockey players."

This year, however, all of the winners happened to be skiers.

Winners were freestyle skiers Gmeiner and Caterina Mader, snowboarders David Manthei and Justin Reiter, Alpine skiers Marsh Gooding, Kathleen Lyon and Lisa Perricone and Nordic skiers Mike Gleason, Sarah MacCarthy, Austin Ross, Korie Steitz and Jessica Philip.

Dues from more than 300 members of Steamboat's Over the Hill Gang fund the program.

"This is something our membership really supports," Laterzo said.

The Over the Hill Gang is made up of skiers age 55 and older. The group leads guided tours on the mountain six days a week and sponsors a number of social events and other gatherings.

Each September, the group offers winter athletes a chance to apply for financial assistance. Winners are announced in late November or December. Laterzo said the grants are awarded based on athletic ability, the athletes scholastic standing and on need.

The club's generosity has been a blessing for Gmeiner and her family, who are confronted by the rising cost of skiing each winter.

Gina and her sister, Carly, are skiers, so Gina does everything possible to keep her family's expenses down.

This year, the news that she was awarded her second-straight grant from the Over the Hill Gang came as music to her ears.

"I just can't express how thankful I am,' Gmeiner said. "This money is so important and means so much."

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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