Let the games begin

Racer discovers waiting is hardest part of event

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— Young Alpine racer Jace Wirth discovered Thursday waiting is one of the hardest things to do in the sport of ski racing.

Wirth was the seventh racer to start Thursday's super-G race at the Steamboat Ski Area and he posted the third fastest time early in the race.

Then the waiting began.

"I really wanted to end up on the podium. It's my goal this season to make it to the Whistler Cup in Canada," Wirth said.

The Whistler Cup is one of the biggest international races of the season for 11- and 12-year-old skiers. The top three overall racers in the combined super-G, giant slalom and slalom events from this week's Junior Olympic Championships will earn an invitation to compete in that event, which will be held later this month.

Wirth knew after his run that grabbing a third-place finish on the first day would put him on the right track as he heads into both the giant slalom and slalom, events in which he feels more comfortable racing.

So Wirth waited at the bottom of the hill and hoped.

Most of the top racers had finished, and with just 35 racers left, things were looking pretty good for him.

Most of the top-seeded racers had fallen short of his mark of 53.20 seconds.

"I just waited near the result sheet and watched the other racers come down," Wirth said. "I knew there were still a couple of racers out there who could beat me, so I didn't want to leave."

Unfortunately for him, one of those remaining skiers did beat his time -- but just barely.

Wyoming skier Max Marno came from the 30th starting position in the race to slip past the local favorite by less than 1 second, finishing in 52.99. It was an amazing finish for Marno, who had been trapped by a blizzard in Centennial, Wyo., and missed Wednesday's super-G training session.

Marno said the race organizers let him forerun the race today so that he would meet the training requirement.

"I'm glad he got here. I just wished he would have been a little bit slower in the race," Wirth joked.

But the Steamboat racer wasn't bitter and said he was happy with his fourth-place finish.

"It's still within reach," Wirth said of the Whistler Cup. "I'm just going to have to push a little harder."

Wirth said he wouldn't have changed a thing about his super-G run.

"The coaches said I had the potential to win this race, but my line was a little low and I almost missed the gate just below the knoll," he said. "I just carried a little bit too much speed into the knoll. That's what cost me the race."

Team Norway skier Eric Hicks held on to win the race with a time of 52.81. Team Casanova racer Christopher Acosta was second at 52.93 and Marno, whose father lived in Steamboat before moving to Wyoming, placed third.

Wirth was the top Steamboat racer in fourth, Ryan McConnell came in 21st (55.22), Ryan Coe was 27th (55.77) and Hig Roberts was 35th (56.09).

Steamboat's Nelson Kane placed 48th, Adam Parke placed 54th, Michael Lyon was 59th, Andrew White was 67th, Joshua Fix placed 68th and Mac Marsh was 87th.

Madison Shepard of Team Timber Ridge won the girls race in a time of 53.67. Ski Club Vail's Christa Ghent was second at 54.44 and Summit's Sunnie Elliot was third with a time of 55.52.

The top Steamboat finisher for the girls was Ashley Stamp in 19th with a time of 58.49.

Other local finishers included Amanda DeVos in 27th, Cassady Roberts in 30th, Vikki Brown in 33rd, Macy Margolin in 46th and Erika Walters in 54th.

The Junior Olympic Championships will continue today with the giant slalom race. The girls' first run is scheduled to begin with forerunners at 8:40 a.m.

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