Speed name of the game

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For most of the ski racers at this year's J4 Junior Olympic Festival, today's super-G will be a highlight to remember. For a few others, it's simply a hurdle to be cleared.

Whether they liked it or not, all of the 161 racers in this year's Junior Festival were required to take part in a training run Wednesday morning. It was the first chance the skiers had to get on snow at this year's festival.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Scott Wither said it was the perfect opportunity for skiers to get more comfortable with the steep pitches of the Sitz/See Me course at the Steamboat Ski Area and the speed they will encounter in the first of three championship events.

"Zoom, zoom, zoom," Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club racer Hig Roberts said. "I love the super-G because of the speed."

Roberts, who trains on the course close to 30 times a year, said he isn't nervous about the event because he knows what to expect.

A few seconds after tripping the starting wand, the young racers can expected to reach speeds of more than 50 mph. If conditions are just right, they may even push 60 mph.

It's an impressive speed when you consider that the skiers, who are between the ages of 11 and 13, will not get a license to drive for at least three more years.

"There is no slowing down," said Andrew White, 12-year-old from the Winter Sports Club. "I feel as if I'm driving a car, but there are no windshields and no seat belts."

White said getting to know the course is the most important thing about Wednesday's training. But for the Steamboat racers who train on the course all the time, it also was a chance to get pumped up for the festival.

"This gets us ready," Ryan McConnell said. "It tells us exactly what we will be facing when the runs count."

It's the same feeling for his teammate Ashley Stamp who said the training marked the start of a busy week for her.

"This really gets things going," Stamp said of training. "It started with the qualifier in Crested Butte, but it really kicked in today."

While the atmosphere surrounding the festival is all about skiing, the weather hasn't been as cooperative.

Wednesday's training was limited to just one run after the race jury decided that temperatures were increasing and the course was starting to deteriorate. Today's official runs will begin with the men at 9 a.m. However, the women's start has been moved up to 10:30 a.m. The race originally was scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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