On the road to the JO show

Cross-country skiers find success in qualifier

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— Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club cross-country ability coach Brian Tate thinks his athletes are stepping up to stiff competition.

At Friday's 5K classic race near Carbondale, 19-year-old Marty Smith missed a victory in the OJ boys division by 7 seconds.

"To give him a fair shake, the winner (Durango's Tad Elliot), will be competing at the Nordic Junior World Championships in Italy," Tate said.

Smith also took second to Elliot at the Saturday mass-start skate event at Snowmass. The two races were the fifth and sixth of eight Junior Olympic qualifiers for cross-county Nordic skiers, from OJs down to the J5s. The races provided ample opportunity for Steamboat's 35 skiers to earn spots at the U.S. Junior National Championships, March 5 to 10 in Soldier Hollow, Utah.

The Steamboat skiers responded with plenty of top finishes - 51 in the top 10, counting all age and gender divisions.

Katherine Ingalls won Friday's event in the J2 girls division with the second-fastest overall female time and followed it with a Saturday win in the skate event.

Dori McNeill, who Tate said "continues to dominate her age group," won both events in the J4 girls division - a stacked Steamboat age division where Kate Cooper, Cara Piske and Olivia Rose took the third-, fourth-, and fifth-place spots, respectively Saturday.

Tate highlighted the performance of 15-year-old Molly Newman, who "toughed it out" and took third in the Friday race, only her second race back from a recent Achilles tendon injury.

Liza Stout posted the best finish of her race career with a fourth-place finish Friday in the J2 girls division, Max Scrimgeour took second Friday and won Saturday in the J3 boys division and Carter Miller grabbed a third-place win Saturday in the J2 boys division.

The juniors head to their final JO qualifying races of the season Feb. 23 and 24 in Crested Butte.

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