Local riders get big air at nationals

Steamboat team brings home 43 medals, crowns three champions

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— Arielle Gold's last name was appropriate.

The 9-year-old won four of five snowboard categories and was named the nation's top grommet girl rider at the USASA Snowboard Nationals.

The grommet division was for riders ages 8 and 9.

Gold placed first in giant slalom, slalom, snowboardcross and halfpipe. She also took third in slopestyle at Northstar at Tahoe in California from March 25 to 31.

"I think I did exactly what I was hoping to do," said Arielle, a fourth-grader at Strawberry Park Elementary School. "I didn't have any higher thoughts of what I could do."

Arielle was one of three Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club snowboarders to claim overall titles.

Carter Smalley and Maddy Schaffrick were the other two.

Carter won the snowboardcross, slalom and halfpipe events and was named top grommet male rider. Maddy won the giant slalom, halfpipe and the slopestyle competitions in the menehune girls division.

She also placed third in the slalom and second in snowboardcross.

The menehune division was for riders ages 10 and 11. Summer Smalley placed second overall in the same division.

"We were really excited," Maddy said. "Steamboat did really well this year. The announcer, when he called us up on the podium, said 'Another Steamboat rider. Well, we've had a lot of those.'"

Steamboat's Nik Baden and Chloe Banning also placed second overall. Baden competed in the ruggie boys division for riders ages 7 and younger. Banning competed in the breaker girls division for riders ages 12 and 13.

"I hang out with Summer, Arielle and Chloe. We get along great," Maddy said. "We ride together almost every day at training. Carter and Nik actually taught me a cab 360 in the pipe. I had never been able to do it. We all work together."

Maddy landed a 360 over a 35-foot jump to win the slopestyle competition. She also impressed the judges with her halfpipe run, landing huge 360 to switch 360 to 540 combos.

The Winter Sports Club qualified 15 riders for nationals, down from a year ago. Program director Jon Casson said the older riders within the club chose to compete on different national tours instead of in USASA events.

The Steamboat riders won 22 medals in individual events such as halfpipe. The riders won an additional 21 medals for overall performance, including the three national champions.

"Our riders represented themselves really well this year," Casson said. "Tahoe was a great venue, and our kids really showed what they are capable of. We have some of the top young riders in the country right now, and it's really fun to watch them ride."

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