Steamboat athlete wins two golds at JOs

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— Taylor Fletcher was a marked man heading into the 2006 Junior Olympics, and he left with two more gold medals in the competition in the Northeast.

For the third-straight year, Fletcher finished first in the individual Nordic combined competition, defeating teammate Brett Denney by 1 minute, 4 seconds. Fletcher also paired up with Denney to win the team sprint competition.

"After winning it two years in a row, you hope you could do it three times, but you never know," Winter Sports Club coach Todd Wilson said. "He did take a crash while we were there training, and banged his hip up, but he fought through it really well."

The 2006 Junior Olympics was held from March 2 to Saturday in Lebanon, N.H., but the cross-country skiing races were moved to Craftsbury, Vt., and Andover, N.H., because of poor snow conditions in Lebanon.

"It was a tough schedule because of weather," Wilson said. "For the individual competition, we drove two hours and then another hour for the team competition. The conditions were great there."

In the individual competition, Fletcher was second after jumping, and Denney was third. Fletcher had the fastest cross-country time on his way to the win. Steamboat Springs' Charlie Stoddard was 11th after jumping, but he had the fourth-fastest cross-country time and moved into sixth.

Erik Lynch was 11th; Cliff Field was 12th, Jake Barker was 14th and Aleck Gantick was 16th. The final four were competing in their first Junior Olympics at the J2 level.

"They did great," Wilson said. "They are 11. They are J4s. For them to be competing and qualifying as J2s is huge."

Fletcher and Denney paired up in the Nordic combined team sprint competition Saturday and won against Eastern Region pair Cooper Dodds and Colin Delaney. Lynch and Stoddard were fourth, and Field and Barker were seventh. Gantick teamed up with Spencer Sherrill to place 10th.

"We went in there expecting we would have a real strong team," Wilson said. "I was pleasantly surprised with the caliber of skiing. It shows depth and strength throughout the country, which is what we are looking for."

In the team jumping competition, which was held on a smaller K50 hill in Lebanon, the hometown Eastern Region team took first, scoring 651.8 points. The Rocky Mountain Region team, which is all Steamboat skiers, placed second with 643 points. Fletcher, Denney, Stoddard and Lynch were on that squad.

The season isn't over for the boys. They will take part in the Western Region Championships from March 17 to 19 in Steam--boat.

"It's all ages, all jumps, all classes," Wilson said.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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