California dreamin'

Nordic skiers travel to Truckee in search of medals

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Right now, the idea of reaching a podium seems like a dream.

But if everything goes right for Steamboat Springs cross-country skier Korie Steitz at next week's 2005 Junior Olympic Championships in California maybe, just maybe, reaching the podium will become a reality.

"I'm hoping for a top 10, but of course I'm dreaming of getting on the podium," Steitz said. "I'm not sure if it's possible, but that's what every skier hopes for."

She is not alone.

Mary Rose, Melissa Krause, Sarah MacCarthy, Paul Rose, Mike Gleason and Marty Smith also will travel to the Auburn Ski Club, on Donner Pass just a few miles from Truckee, Calif., with dreams of stepping onto the podium at the biggest junior event of the season for the skiers.

The Steamboat skiers, part of the Rocky Mountain Division team, will compete against the best skiers from the Intermountain, Far West, Pacific Northwest, Alaska, High Plains, Midwest, Great Lakes, New England and Mid-Atlantic divisions.

The events are scheduled to begin Monday with the skate sprint. The individual skate will take place Wednesday. The individual classic will take place March 11. The final event, the team relay race, is slated for March 12.

For Steitz, this year's trip to the Junior Olympic Championships will be her fourth -- and possibly last.

She will be eligible next year, but is hoping to have reached the college level and to have qualified for the NCAA Championships by then. Those events will take place in Steamboat Springs.

But first, Steitz needs to prove she has what it takes to the college coaches who will be attending this year's Junior Olympics.

She has high hopes for top finishes, but experience has taught her that the Junior Olympics are not just about results.

"It's just a lot of fun," Steitz said. "These races draw all the top racers from across the country and it's a chance to see some skiers that we normally don't race."

It's also a chance to gain some experience and for skiers to figure out where they stand in the bigger picture. It's also a chance for skiers to convince the NCAA coaches who attend the event that they would be a good addition to a college team.

Last weekend at the NCAA's Western Regional Championships in Bozeman, Mont., Steitz raced to a 20th place in the 15-kilometer skate race.

"I would have scored points for every team there," Steitz said. "So it was a really good race for me."

She is hoping that another good showing this weekend will tempt a top-level school to invite her to join their team.

Steitz, MacCarthy, Paul Rose, Gleason and Smith will compete in the J-1 division.

Mary Rose and Krause will compete in the J-2 division.

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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