Snowboard team strives to remain best in U.S.

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The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club will open the 2004-05 season with a new snowboarding director, but the team expects to maintain the same high standards that earned it "Snowboard Club of Year" honors from the U.S. Skiing Association last winter.

"We always ask our kids to go out and do their very best," director Jon Casson said. "If they win a medal, that's great. If they don't win a medal, but did it their very best, that's also great. We look at the Club of the Year award the exact same way."

Casson, who worked as the program's junior ability coach last season, will replace former program director Mike Herget, who resigned this year to pursue other interests.

The coach said he will continue to work with the junior ability riders but also will focus on pushing the Steamboat team forward as director.

To accomplish his goals, Casson has added two new levels to the snowboarding program and hired several well-known coaches that bring a wealth of experience to a team that already features a top-notch coaching staff.

This year, Steamboat will offer a pro-am freestyle program to offer the club's most advanced snowboarders a new area of growth. Casson also thinks the new program will bridge the gap between the end of high school and the next level -- whether that's competing in professional events or earning a spot on the U.S. National Team.

"There really hasn't been a place for our athletes to go after they graduate from high school," Casson said. "Most snowboarders have to move to a place like Park City (Utah) or Mammoth (Calif.) and hook up with other professional riders for training. We might be the only club in the country to offer a program like this."

Casson said the new squad would be modeled after the Alpine pro-am team run by Thedo Remmelink. That team has enjoyed a great deal of success and has influenced riders such as Michelle Gorgone, Erika Mueller, Tyler Jewell and Justin Goto-Reiter, all of whom are riding with the American team.

Heath Van Aken, who was a freestyle coach for the U.S. Snowboarding Team for eight years before retiring after the 2002 season, will move to Steamboat Springs from Oregon to take the position with the team.

Cactus Nemec will continue to lead the freestyle program.

Patrick Hargrave will oversee the senior ability freestyle programs, and Casson will train the junior ability boarders and oversee a new mini program designed to ease the transition from development to junior ability. Melanie McDaniel will lead the development program.

This year, Spencer Tamblyn will return to the club. As former competitor and coach, Tamblyn will assist the programs as a technical coach. He will work with all the programs teaching the Steamboat snowboarders the tricks they need to know to be competitive.

Hansjorge Berger, Adam Cassanova and development coach Scott Anfang will join Remmelink on the alpine snowboarding side.

This year, the snowboarding program will have 25 coaches overseeing the program. Casson said it's the biggest group in the history of the program. He also expects the team to grow by about 15 percent to nearly 160 athletes.

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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