Feeling at home

Buffaloes take advantage of Howelsen's hospitality

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The University of Colorado Buffaloes ran wild during the Laura Sharpe Flood Memorial Ski Invitational on Friday and Saturday in Steamboat Springs, but that didn't stop a pair of local skiers from riding high in the slalom.

Twenty-year-old Marsh Goo--ding topped the men's field in Friday's slalom, and former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club standout Lisa Perricone, a freshman at CU, won the women's slalom Saturday.

"I believed that I could win this race coming into the weekend," Gooding said. "I've been skiing the slalom very well lately, and my coaches told me that if I believed, I could win."

The International Skiing Federation-sanctioned Univer--sity Races provide opportunities for young ski racers such as Gooding, who are not affiliated with a college, to improve their world ranking points and starting positions for other FIS-level races. It also allows top college racers to maintain their points while attending school.

"College racing just keeps getting better and better," Gooding said. "These races were a great opportunity to move up the ranks."

It was also a great opportunity for Gooding, who was turned away by the University of Vermont last winter, to make a lasting impression.

"I tried to walk on last season, but their coach already had a full team. He didn't even look at me," Gooding said. "At the time, I was disappointed, but now, it's looking like it may have been a good thing."

Gooding, who is hoping to make the U.S. Ski Team, has been posting solid slalom results this season and thinks that with some more training, he can improve in giant slalom, super-G and downhill.

Gooding began Friday night's race in the 21st starting position but moved to fifth after the first run under the lights at Howelsen Hill. Then, in his second run, he eclipsed the field en route to an important first-place finish.

"My first run was good, but I made some pretty big mistakes," Gooding said. "When I saw my time and position, I was pretty happy. I knew that if I cleaned up a few of the mistakes in my second run that I could win the race."

On the second run, Gooding posted the third-fastest time, but his combined effort of 1 minute, 26.41 seconds was enough to pull into the top spot.

New Mexico's Alex Mach was the top college finisher, taking second place overall with a time of 1:27.05, and Alaska's Timothee Theaux was third overall with a time of 1:27.46. Former Winter Sports Club racers Gaspar Perricone, with Utah, finished fifth, and Josh Bryan, with CU, placed 10th.

On Saturday, the men moved to the giant slalom course on Concentration ski run at Mount Werner, where the University of Denver's Todd Ligare topped the pack with a time of 2:07.56. Utah's Scott Veenis was second at 2:07.73. Gaspar Perricone finished eighth, Bryan was 16th, and Joel Adams placed 19th. Gooding placed 23rd in that race after starting in the 36th position.

Like Gooding, Lisa Perri--cone was right at home at Howel--sen Hill on Saturday night. She streaked to her first collegiate victory with a time of 1:29.20 and edged teammate Lucie Zikova, who placed second with a time of 1:30.99 in the slalom.

Steamboat's Heidi Hillen--brand was fifth, and former Winter Sports Club racer Gladys Weidt was 16th. Winter Sports Club racers Christina Roberts, Jennifer Allen and Lauren Letson were in 26th, 27th and 31st places, respectively.

On Friday, the women braved steady snow and a tricky course at the Steamboat Ski Area during the giant slalom event on Concentration. The University of Denver's Florence Roujas won the race with a time of 2:16.39.

Top Steamboat finishers included Weidt in seventh, Perricone in 12th and Hillenbrand in 14th.

"The coaches and volunteers who put on these races did an awesome job," Gooding said. "They've worked hard all season to provide great opportunities for local racers."

Last weekend's event was a preview of the NCAA National Championships, which will come to Steamboat Springs from March 8 to 11.

It will be the first time the championships have been held in Colorado since 1993 and will include Nordic and Alpine events.

The Laura Sharpe Flood Memorial Ski Invitational, which was held the past two weekends, was a chance for skiers and organizers to prepare for the championships.

CU, which took the lead after the Nordic portion, won the meet with 592 points. New Mexico was second at 544, and Denver was third with 531.5 points.

The event also gave several former Steamboat athletes who have gone on to college a chance to come home and compete.

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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