Steamboat skiers make their mark

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— The J3 Junior Olympic Championships came to a close Saturday at Vail's Gold Peak with Buck Hill, Minn.'s Michael Ankeny topping Ski Club Vail's Hunter Schleper for the slalom title.

But from the opening downhill March 7, members of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club made a mark and contended for the title. "As a whole, Steamboat athletes had a great week, and they skied well," Steamboat coach Dusty Matheson said. "Everyone competed at their highest level."

In Wednesday's super-G race, Steamboat racers took two of the top three spots in the men's event. They also posted a podium in the women's competition.

Steamboat's Max Marno won the super-G event in a time of 56.52, ending a fast-start by the members of the Ski Club Vail team. Schleper, who won the opening downhill event, placed second and was the only Vail racer on the podium on the second day. Ryan McConnell captured third for the Winter Sports Club.

The 1-3 finish was a bright spot for Steamboat, after Vail collected all three podium spots in the opening event, the downhill. Schleper won the downhill with a time of 46.73 seconds. Teammate Cody Unicume was second at 47.26, and Kit Flowers completed the sweep by placing third with a time of 47.28.

The top Steamboat finisher was McConnell, who just missed the podium in fourth. Max Marno was sixth, and Hig Roberts was eighth. Delainey Ackerman led a one-two Vail finish in the women's downhill with a time of 49.22. Jocelyn Irwin was second at 49.77, and Taylor Verdun of Loveland placed third with a time of 49.95. Emily Sackett was the top Steamboat finisher in sixth. Anna Marno was seventh, Caitlin Colgan was 14th, and Cassady Roberts placed 15th.

Ackerman also won the women's super-G in a time of 59.33. Teammate Olivia Davis took second at 59.62, and Steamboat's Anna Marno was third with a time of 59.99. Sackett was sixth, Roberts was 11th and Jorid Halsnes placed 21st in the field of 71 racers.

"All of the Steamboat athletes moved up from their start positions in both the downhill and super-G," Matheson said.

The coach was hoping for an even stronger Steamboat showing in the technical events, but once again, they were facing a talented field of skiers.

Ackerman picked up her third title of the week in the women's giant slalom Thursday. Aspen's Olivia Rose was second and Joelle Chevalier of Team Summit was third. The top Steamboat finisher was Roberts in seventh. Maria Hillenbrand was 10th.

Buck Hill's Ankeny picked up the first of two Junior Olympic titles Friday in the men's giant slalom. He completed the course in 1 minute, 39.16 seconds to win. Schleper took second in a time of 1:39.91, and Max Marno placed third with a time of 1:40.57.

Other top Steamboat finishers included Jordan Bernard in seventh at 1:43.24, Hig Roberts in eighth at 1:43.40 and McConnell in 10th at 1:44.08. Ankeny's victory in the slalom Saturday brought the men's events to a close. The Winter Sports Club got solid showings from Max Marno in sixth, Hig Roberts in eighth and a surprising finish from Graham Holland, who moved up to 23rd after starting in the 80th position. The final women's title went to Julia Keeler of Crested Butte Academy. Steamboat's Anna Marno was second, and Winter Park's Tracie Kroneberger was third. Hillenbrand was the top Steamboat finisher in seventh, Sackett was 12th, and Roberts placed 13th.

This year Steamboat sent a record number of skiers to the J3 Junior Olympic Cham--pionships.

"There were so many shining performances from so many of the Steamboat ath--letes," Matheson said.

The coach was thrilled that Lorin Paley won the Bibo award, which goes to the skier who improves her starting position the most during the week. Max Marno was ranked third in the overall results and earned an invitation to the Whistler Cup, an international competition for junior racers that will be held in Canada in April. Anna Marno also placed third overall but was edged out of a trip to Whistler.

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