Jumping for Junior Olympics

Two weekends of Nordic action hit Howelsen Hill

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— Steamboat Springs' top Nordic athletes will get their shots at qualifying for Junior Olympics during competitions at Howelsen Hill over the next two weekends.

Those competitions begin today and Saturday with the Rocky Mountain Division/Larry Johnson Memorial and Junior Olympic Qualifier for ski jumpers and Nordic combined athletes.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic program director Todd Wilson said the event is the second of three qualifiers for the 2007 Junior Olympic National Championships in Park City, Utah. The championships take place Feb. 27 through March 4. Skiers must make the top 20 percent of their starting field in two of the three events to qualify.

Some of Steamboat's skiers missed that mark at the Utah Winter Games earlier this month in Park City, so Wilson said the pressure is now on for them to perform well on their home hill.

"It still depends on the day, the conditions and who has got their games on," Wilson said. He's optimistic that the nearly 40 competing Winter Sports Club athletes will fare well.

Today's action begins at 5:30 p.m. with three jump events on the K-18, K-25 and K-38 hills.

Wilson expects a total of about 100 competitors, including children as young as seven. The field also will include four local members of the U.S. Nordic combined team - Alex Glueck, Alex and Davis Miller and Bryan Fletcher.

A pair of jump events on the K-68 and K-90 hills will start at 9:30 a.m. Saturday followed by Nordic combined cross-country races beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Cross-country races will take center stage Feb. 2 and 3 at the NCAA University of Denver Invitational at Howelsen Hill. The NCAA race will be held in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Nordic Junior Oly-mpic Qualifier.

Winter Sports Club cross-country ability coach Brian Tate thinks the races give his older J1 racers an "opportunity to buck up and race against older and faster college kids" coming for a regional invitational.

Wilson expects anywhere from 300 to 350 racers at next weekend's event. The RMN races are the third and fourth qualifiers for the juniors gunning for the U.S. Junior National Championships in March.

The Friday interval-start skate races begin at 9 a.m. with the NCAA athletes and then moving through younger junior age classes throughout the day. The Saturday mass-start classic races will be held in the same fashion, starting at 9 a.m. from the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena grounds.

- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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