Reiter finds reason to believe at snowboarding finals

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— This wasn't the gold medal season snowboarder Justin Reiter was hoping for in November, but in the end, a few words from his mother put it into perspective.

"It didn't live up to my expected goals," Reiter said. "But my mom called me the other night, and she told me that I just had to believe in myself."

Reiter listened to his mom's advice and finished the season with national titles in parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom at the North American Snow--boarding Finals at Wash--ington's Crystal Mountain Resort.

"This was a great way to end a very challenging season," Reiter said. "I had some bad luck at the beginning of the season and lost my shot to qualify for the Olympics. It was disappointing, but I had to put it behind me and refocus my efforts."

An injury and some equipment problems hindered Reiter at the start of the 2006 season, By the time he got it worked out, the Alpine snowboard racer had lost his World Cup position and any shot at making it to the Olympic games -- and it was only December.

But Reiter found new focus and finished the season with several strong results, including his first place finish in the parallel giant slalom finals Saturday.

He beat teammate Tyler Jew--ell for the title. Jewell was the only American to qualify for the Olympic Games in Italy.

In Sunday's parallel slalom, he finished second to Canadian Adam McLeish in the final race of the 2006 season. But because Reiter was the top American, he also earned the national crown in that event.

"It was a great showing for Justin and our entire team," Steamboat coach Thedo Rem--melink said. "We closed off the season the best way we could."

Top finishes included Reiter and Jewell's top showings in the giant slalom Saturday. Josh Wylie was sixth, Phillipe Berube was seventh, and Vic Wild was 10th. Steamboat's Adam McLeish (11th) and Quinn Orb (13th) also made the finals, which included the top 16 riders in the field of 50.

Canadian Alexa Loo topped the women's field, but Steamboat riders were not far behind.

Steamboat's Kimiko Zakreski placed second, and teammate Caroline Calve was third. Both riders compete for the Canadian national team but train in Steamboat Springs with the Winter Sports Club.

The top American woman, Erica Mueller, is also from the Winter Sports Club. She finished fourth, followed by Winter Sports Club teammates Ekaterina Zavia--lova in fifth and Eden Serina in ninth. Zavialova is from Canada, and Serina in from the Philippines.

Steamboat's success continued in Sunday's slalom races with Steamboat riders taking six of the top 10 spots in the men's race.

McLeish led the field and topped teammate Reiter in the final run of the day. American rider Adam Smith topped Berube for the third spot. Wild was fifth, Jewell was seventh, and Wylie was 10th. Steamboat's David Manthei placed 11th, Quinn Orb was 14th, and Darren Ratcliffe was 15th. Chris Klug, the 2002 bronze medalist, placed 13th in the slalom. He was ninth in the giant slalom.

Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher won the women's race. She beat Winter Sports Club rider Calve, who won the overall NorAm title this season, in the finals. Zakreski placed fourth, Zavialova was fifth, and Mueller was eighth. Serina also made the finals, and placed 15th in the final results.

The finals are the last races of the NorAm series and also act as the national finals for the American riders. Calve ended up as the top women in the NorAm series, and Steamboat's Zac Wild topped the men's standings.

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