The Junior Olympics

Cross country skiers off to Placid

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She has spent the winter traveling from one cross country race to another, but these days, Steamboat Springs cross country skier Korie Steitz is focused on just one.

The young skier is not alone.

"These are the biggest races, this is what it all comes down to," Steitz said of next month's Junior Olympics.

Steitz is one of eight Steamboat skiers who will make the trip to Lake Placid, N.Y., to compete in the event March 6 through 13. Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skiers Austin Ross, Mike Gleason, Marty Smith, Andy Garber, Paul Rose, Meredith Gilliland and Sarah MacCarthy will join Steitz in New York.

Steitz is not a member of the club and has trained independently this season.

This year's Rocky Mountain Division team, which includes 21 boys and 21 girls, was named after the final division race of the season in Crested Butte last week.

"The competition is always tough there," Steitz said of the Junior Olympics. She has made the trip the past three years and hopes to break into the top 10 in the classic and skate events this time around.

"It's the best because you are going up against the top skiers in your age division in the entire country," Steitz said. "It tells you exactly where you stand in the bigger picture."

The championships will open with a 1k sprint race March 8. The classic race is scheduled for March 10, and the skate race is scheduled for March 12. Gleason, who is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Colorado State High School Championships, also is excited about going up against the best in the national level race.

While the top skiers in the nationals will test the young Steamboat skier's mettle, he admits his toughest hurdle will come from the snow-covered hills of the Lake Placid course.

"At the end of the race it, isn't the other skiers that beat you -- it's the course," Gleason said.

Several Steamboat skiers posted top finishes at the final Junior Olympic qualifiers of the season in Crested Butte.

On Feb. 14, Hennie Kashiwa was second in the older junior class of a skiathlon. Gleason was third and Ross was 10th in the J1 division and Rose was fourth in the J2 division.

MacCarthy led the Steamboat girls with a second in the J1 division. Emily Stout was fourth, Molly Newman was sixth, Katherine Ingalls was ninth and Michelle Lichtenfels was 12th . Olivia Rose won the J6 girls race.

On Feb. 15 the skiers competed in a classic team sprint. The team of Ross and Smith raced to a fourth-place finish and Paul Rose and Gleason placed fifth in the J1 boys race. Kyle Steitz and Carter Miller placed sixth in the J3 division and Jasper Gantick and Dawson Stuckie of Crested Butte took seventh.

MacCarthy teamed up with Vail's Haliegh Armstrong to win the J2 girls class. Steitz joined forces with Krysia Crabtree to place second. Steamboat's Mary Rose and Molly Newman placed second; Ingalls and Stout placed fifth; and Michelle Lichtenfels and Summit's Bailey Leach placed sixth in the girls J3 division.

Emma Lichtenfels and Liza Stout placed fifth in the girls J4 division and Olivia Rose and Lucy Newman won the girls J5 class.

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