Local skier named to Junior World team

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Marsh Gooding came a step closer to realizing his goal of making the U.S. Alpine Ski Team on Sunday, when he was named to the 2006 U.S. Alpine Junior World Championships team.

Gooding, 20, of Steamboat Springs, is among eight men and eight women named to the team that competes in Quebec early next month.

"I'm still trying to make the U.S. Ski Team," Gooding said Monday. "A top-five (finish) at World Juniors or improving my world ranking to the top 100 could do that for me."

Gooding, racing for the Steam--boat Springs Winter Sports Club, turned in a World Junior qualifying slalom result at a Nor-Am Cup race at Hunter Mountain, N.Y., in January. However, it was at a pair of collegiate ski races in Colorado this month, including one on Howelsen Hill, that Gooding really improved his international standing.

Ironically, Gooding left home for the University of Vermont in fall 2004 to try to become a college ski racer. When the coach of the Catamounts said he didn't have a place on his roster for Gooding, the Steamboat native returned after completing one semester at UVM.

Now, the skier is achieving results that are dramatically improving his international ranking while competing as an independent in Rocky Mountain college races.

"The talent level at college races is really coming up," Gooding said.

He won the slalom event at the University of Colorado Invitational at Howelsen Hill on Feb. 3 against an international field. The top 10 included skiers from Canada, France and Norway, as well as Americans. Steamboat's Gaspar Perricone finished fifth in that race.

"I'm sure I was helped by the home-field advantage," Gooding said. "It was such a great opportunity. The coaches and volunteers here put on a much better race. And I'm familiar with the soft, grippy snow. It was the most relaxing race I've had this winter."

Gooding's coaches at the Winter Sports Club this season are former U.S. Ski Team racer and Olympian Andy Leroy and Scott Tanner.

A week after the race at Howelsen, Gooding placed eighth in slalom at the Western Sate College Invitational at Crested Butte.

"I think those two results took me from 550th in the world into the low 300s," Gooding said. "It helps me a lot for World Juniors, because instead of starting in the 60s, I should start in the 20s. I felt I needed to start in the top 30 to have a chance to do well."

During a ski race, courses develop ruts, a disadvantage to skiers starting further down in the pack.

The World Junior men's slalom will be March 5. Gooding also has competed in giant slalom and super G this winter. He has just one downhill start.

After the event winds up March 8, he'll remain in Canada for the Nor Am Cup finals, then head to Sugarloaf, Maine, for the U.S. National Champ--ionships from March 25 to 30.

Gooding will continue to pursue a spot on the U.S. Ski Team into the early part of next ski season. If he hasn't realized that goal by the start of the second semester, he said he might look around for a college coach who thinks he can contribute.

"That's plan B," Gooding said.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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