Thursday, November 27, 2003
Just eight races into the 2003-04 season and it's already clear that the members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's ability programs will be strong.
Drew Roberts was among several Steamboat Springs skiers making an early season statement by winning the Rocky Mountain Trophy Series slalom Monday in Breckenridge. He also placed fourth Tuesday in another slalom in Breckenridge.
"It was a really good start," Roberts said. "It was my first FIS win, but it wasn't necessarily the biggest thing that could happen. I skied well, but I'm still focused on stepping up to the next level."
Ability coach Sue Schwartz said an intensive summer training program along with the fact that several skiers attended National Development System camps in the fall have given her team an edge in the opening races.
It seemed to pay off because Roberts was not alone at the top of the results this week. Teammate Tony Cesolini placed seventh in Monday's slalom and Marsh Gooding took 16th.
"We're rock solid this season," Alpine director Tony Nunnikhoven said about the good news. "I believe we are off to one of our best starts ever, and I think this is going to be one of our best teams."
Like the men, the Steamboat women also fared well in the first few races of competitive season. One of the team's top skiers, Lisa Perricone, is out for four weeks with a broken collar bone, but the injury hasn't seemed to slow the rest of the squad.
On Wednesday, Emily Colin was fourth and Tina Roberts fifth in the women's RMTS slalom, also held in Breckenridge. U.S. Ski Team member Alex Schaeffer won the race. Heidi Hillenbrand moved from 34th to fourth after the first run Wednesday but skied off course in her second run.
"It was a great showing for her," Schwartz said. "It shows her potential."
Colin and Drew Roberts also posted top finishes in a pair of NorAm slaloms last week in Winter Park. Colin placed 33rd, and Drew Roberts placed 38th in the event, which was filled with international skiers preparing for the World Cup races in Park City.
"I think the finishes in the NorAm races were bigger than winning on Monday," Drew Roberts said. "They were more important because I was going up against several of the top skiers in the world."
The NorAm races preceded several World Cups in Park City. Drew Roberts said the best skiers in the world were on hand hoping to tune up for the World Cup and pick up a little cash.
Nunnikhoven said the fact that several Steamboat ski racers -- the Roberts, Cesolini, Gooding, Conlin and Perricone -- were invited to the National Development System camps this fall means they have already captured the attention of the U.S. Ski Team.
The early season finishes are only going to help those skiers in their drive to earn a spot on the team.
"We've changed a couple of things the last couple of years that I think will make a dramatic difference," Nunnikhoven said. "We've been focused on strength training the past few years, and I think you will see that playing out in the early season."
Nunnikhoven said early season training in Summit County has also paid off.
"Some of these skiers have already been on snow 25 days this year," Nunnikhoven said. 'They wouldn't be getting results like these if they hadn't made the trips."