Boarders ride away with top spots

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— Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Thedo Remmelink was smiling this week.

And why shouldn't he be happy?

The only downside to his team's most recent competition, a NorAm parallel giant slalom in Aspen on March 7, was that one of his top female riders would finish second in the event -- and another would win.

"My last run against Becky (Bassett) was a great one," first-place finisher Erica Mueller said. "We were lucky that we didn't have to go against each other in the first round."

Mueller defeated her teammate on the last of her seven runs that day to win the competition. Bassett earned second.

But the local snowboarders were not alone on the podium. Steamboat's Andy Jo Stump took third and another local rider, Ashely Nice, was fourth.

Mueller credited the luck of the draw for her team's dominating performance at the event, but that wasn't the only thing working for the local riders. It helped that the local riders didn't have to face one another until the late rounds, but in this marathon-style event, conditioning and coaching can play an important role.

"You have to go all out on your first run if you want to qualify," Mueller said.

After that the top eight (for women) snowboarders must take it one run at a time as they knock out their opponents en route to the finals.

"It's a wicked long day," Mueller said. "But the weather was great, so it wasn't that bad."

Mueller said it takes a good deal of endurance just to make it to the finals. Once a rider is there, it takes clean, fast runs to grab the title.

But the Steamboat women were not the only ones that had Remmelink smiling at the end of the event.

He was just as thrilled about the men's finishes.

Steamboat's Justin Goto took first, Matt Drinker was second and Josh Riley took fourth.

"This was a great showing for most of our athletes," Remmelink said. "A few of them have been struggling this season and this should give them some confidence."

The team will now enter a stretch that will include the Canadian National Championships March 23 in Calgary and U.S. National championships April 3-6 back in Aspen.

The NorAm event also helped Goto earn a bid to compete in the final World Cup event of the season, which is scheduled for Arosa, SUI March 12-16.

"It's been kind of spread out this season," Mueller said of the scheduling. "Now we will just have to keep training and wait until the Canadian Nationals."

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