When Colorado Mountain College ski racer Ben Reeder stepped into the starting gate of last Friday's giant slalom race in Red Lodge, Mont., he was focused on one thing: skiing fast.
The first-year skier did that and more. He gave his team the lift it needed to overcome last year's disappointing showing at the U.S. Collegiate Ski Association's Western Regional Championships and helped the team earn a berth to the National Championships for the first time in four years.
The college team from Steamboat finished fourth and will advance to compete at the U.S. Collegiate Ski Association Nationals for the first time in several years. The nationals will take place March 1 through 6 in Sugarloaf, Maine.
"We've worked hard all season for this," Reeder said. "Now that it's here, everybody is pretty excited. It was a great effort. We had five guys finish on both days and that's what you need to advance."
Reeder, who surprised everyone with his finish in the giant slalom, won the combined title at the championships.
He opened with a first-place showing in the giant slalom, the weaker of his two events, Friday, then backed it up with fourth-place in the slalom Saturday.
Coach George Thomas said most of the schools at the regional race were four-year institutions with experienced ski racers.
The University of British Columbia won the regional title, the University of Colorado's club team placed second and Rocky Mountain College from Billings, Mont., placed third.
Because the University of Colorado fields a NCAA varsity team as well, its club squad does not qualify to go to the national championships. Instead, Albertson College of Idaho earned the final qualifying spot for nationals based on its fifth-place showing.
Other top CMC finishes included team captain Erik Jorgensen, who placed 11th in the slalom and 24th in the giant slalom, and Marty Williams, who placed 14th in the giant slalom and 21st in the slalom races. Those skiers, along with Reeder, had the three fastest times, qualifying the team for the national races.
"I knew they had the ability and were really hungry to go to nationals, but my main concern was nervous anticipation and anxiety. They could blast out of the gate with their hair on fire, but then go 10 gates and blow up," Thomas said. "But they did it. All five guys completed 20 runs with no mistakes, and I'm proud of all their efforts."
Skiers traveling to the national championships will include Reeder, Jorgensen, Williams, Chris Grover, Ryan Armento and Casey O'Donnell. Armento and O'Donnell will share race duties, competing as a fifth qualifier for the CMC team.
The CMC combined Nordic and Alpine women's team also received an automatic berth to the championships.
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