Steamboat jumpers gain valuable experience

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— Park City jumper Chris Francis dominated the bigger hills in last weekend's Utah Winter Games in Park City, but for a group of 14 young jumpers from Steamboat Springs, the event provided a chance to gain some experience and learn some valuable lessons.

"We only took 14 kids over because our older J-1 skiers had just come back from Lake Placid, and most of them were getting ready to go to Calgary for the North American Junior Championships," coach Gary Crawford said.

For skiers like Charlie Stoddard, Trevor Wert and Ian Noble, the competition offered a chance to step onto the K-120 hill for the first time. Stoddard, Brett Denny and Wert also took their first flights on the K-90.

Despite the lack of experience, Steamboat's younger athletes managed to hold their own against a huge field of skiers, most of them coming from Park City's National Sports Foundation.

The weekend's best results for the local skiers came in the K-40, where Wert topped the field with 199.5 total points. Taylor Fletcher was second at 199.3 and Stoddard was third with a jump of 193.8.

On the K-64, Steamboat jumper Andy Garber was fourth, with teammates Fletcher and Paul Berry, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.

Utah skiers swept the top results with Chris Francis taking first, Andres Johnson taking second and Skyler Keate capturing third.

Francis also won the K-90 event, which was held on Saturday. He was followed by Johnson in second and Brett Camerota in third. Steamboat's Berry placed 10th to lead the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Fletcher was 11th, Garber was 12th and Niels Morck was 13th.

The story was much the same for the K-120 event, which was also held on Saturday.

Francis chalked up the win with Keate on his heels in second and Johnson in third. The top Steamboat finisher was Stoddard, with a win in the J-4 boys division on the K-20 hill.

"I think the coaches were really happy with the way our athletes jumped," coach Chris Gilbertson said. "Our athletes performed well and posted some solid results."

Gilbertson is hoping the experience will help the Steamboat skiers in the first Junior Olympic qualifier of the season, which is scheduled for Jan. 17 and 18 in Steamboat.

In addition to the top special-jumping results, the Steamboat athletes also showed well in the Nordic combined events.

In the K-64 competition Steamboat skier Andy Garber was second, Morck was third, Berry came in third and Fletcher was fifth. Winter Sports Club skier Brett Denny won the K-40 Nordic combined event. Steamboat teammates Adam Peters and Sam Chovan were second and third, respectively. Charlie Stoddard won the J-4 event, which was held on the K-20 hill and Steamboat's Like Anderson was second in the J-5 boys class, which was help on the K-10 hill.

Former Steamboat skier Adam Schwall, who now skis with the Utah team, placed third in the K-90 competition.

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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