Steamboat skier inspired by top award

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If 14-year-old Luke Kamieniecki wasn't motivated be-fore last week's Rocky Mountain Freestyle Divisional Championships, he is now.

That's because he received the prestigious "Go for the Gold" award at the division's annual awards banquet, which followed the divisional championships held Sunday in Winter Park.

The award, given in honor of Melanie Palenik, the first U.S. freestyle skier to win an Olympic gold medal, is awarded to the J-3 skier who shows a high degree of motivation, dedication and commitment to the sport of freestyle skiing. Results also are important.

"Of course it motivates me," Kamieniecki said about winning. "Not only does it push me to get better results right now, but in the long term, I think it will motivate me to push for the World Cup, or possibly the Olympics."

Kamieniecki joins an elite group of skiers who have won the award in the past including Steamboat's Gina Gmeiner, Caterina Mader, Ryan St. Onge, Emiko Torito, Adam Smith and Tyler Hamlet. Kamieniecki becomes the 14th skier to earn the honor in the Rocky Mountain Division.

"It's a very big award for a young skier," said Erik Skinner, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club program director.

The honor was just one of many that the members of the Winter Sports Club pocketed at the end-of-season banquet.

Kamieniecki also placed third in the overall male combined award standings.

Skiers earn points for their best two aerial events (which include traditional aerial, big air and half-pipe events), their two top dual mogul events and top two single mogul events during the season.

Winter Park's PJ Lewis was the top-ranked skier, with Aspen's Jacob Iverson coming in second.

Kamieniecki was the top J-3 skier in the point totals. Teammate Nathaniel Chellel was sixth, Dalton Lee was 10th, and Ryan Dyer was 11th.

Caterina Mader won the women's combined award for the division, followed by Summit's Jordan Poyfair. Steamboat's Jenny Lee was fourth, and teammate Sierra Weir was 10th.

Maryann Skraba won the overall dual mogul title for the women, and former Winter Sports Club skier Jarrett Arg-uelles topped the men's standings.

Steamboat's Chris Gebhardt finished eighth, Abe Maynard finished 14th, Kamieniecki was 17th, and Sam Tarrant was 22nd. Chellel was 25th, and Dalton Lee was 31st.

Jenny Lee earned the overall women's aerial title. Mader was sixth, and Weir placed eighth. Sam Ferguson topped the men's aerial standings, with Steamboat's Dalton Lee finishing seventh. Kam-ieniecki was ninth, Tony Gallina was 10th, and Scott Forney was 23rd. Daniel MacArthur was 30th, Bo Randolph was 38th and Jake Cohn was 39th.

As a team, Steamboat finished second to Summit in the division.

Steamboat's Chellel, Cohn, Nic-olas Demetrian, Kylie Doug-las, Forney, Kamieniecki, Dalton Lee, Jenny Lee, Mader, Maynard, Randolph, Alyssa Roche and Tarrant will leave early next week for the Junior Olympic Champ-ionships in Park City, Utah.

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