Home field advantage

Local skiers gear up for Junior Olympic Championships in Steamboat

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Steamboat Springs freestyle skier Alyssa Roche explodes through the bumps at the Ski Town USA Freestyle competition earlier this winter at the Steamboat Ski Area. Roche is one of several local athletes who will compete in this week's Chevrolet Freestyle Junior Olympic Championships, which begin Wednesday at the Steamboat Ski Area.

— Bo Randolph and his Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club teammates won't have to endure a long drive or airplane flight to get to the 2007 Chevrolet Freestyle Junior Olympic Championships.

That's because this year's events will take place this week in Steamboat Springs, on the same slopes where the Steamboat athletes train daily.

"This is the best place to have the championships," Randolph said. "We've got one of the best courses in the country, and this town knows how to host a championship event."

In the past, the Voo Doo mogul course at the ski area has hosted World Cup events and was the site of last year's U.S. Freestyle Ski Team's Olympic Trials. Randolph said the course is in top shape and that he is looking forward to the chance to show what he can do.

"The course is pretty straightforward," he said. "Because we train on it all the time, we know how much we can push ourselves in order to exceed."

Erik Skinner, Steamboat Springs' freestyle program director, also is excited about having the Junior Olympic events back in Steamboat for the first time since 2003.

"This is our chance to show off our venues, and our athletes will have a definite 'home field' advantage," Skinner said. "They are at home and can sleep in their own beds, and they all know these venues very well."

The championships will begin with the halfpipe competition Wednesday at Mavericks Superpipe. The slopestyle competition will take place in the adjacent terrain park Thursday before the events move to the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex for the final three days.

"I'm just hoping to have a good week," Steamboat's Camille Bucci said. "If I can do that, then it will sum up my entire year."

Bucci also hopes to compete in the senior national championships later this year in Killington, Vt. But she said the junior championships are important because they attract the top athletes in her age group - and provide a better indication of where she stands in the big picture.

On Friday, the athletes will compete in the single moguls on Voo Doo. On Saturday, the skiers will reach new heights in the aerial event, and things will wrap up Sunday with the dual moguls on Voo Doo. All of the Junior Olympic Championships events are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

"All of our athletes have been doing a tremendous job since the (Rocky Mountain Division) event in Steamboat and will be riding a wave of momentum headed into this event," Skinner said. "They're all pretty hot right now, so we have high expectations."

But Skinner also knows the competition will be tough, and the Steamboat athletes will need to prove themselves against a field of 250 of the country's top skiers younger than 18.

Athletes from Steamboat will compete in the men's and women's mogul events Friday. The Winter Sports Club also will field athletes in the men's halfpipe Wednesday, the slopestyle Thursday, the men's aerials Saturday and the dual moguls Sunday.

Shelby Dyer, Aylssa Roche, Bucci and Alison Crowe will represent the Steamboat club in the women's mogul event. Caterina Mader and Sierra Weir both qualified for the event but will not ski because of injuries.

Abraham Maynard, Randolph, Ryan Dyer and Dalton Lee will compete for Steamboat in the men's single moguls. Scott Roche will join those four skiers for Sunday's dual mogul event.

Shaq Torrella, Tyler Saxe and Stephen Wilson will compete in the men's aerial event, and the men's halfpipe will include Steamboat's Tony Gallina, Michael, Ricker, Chapman Geer and Conor Garrecht-Connelly. Adrian Pougiales, Gallina, Geer, Will Berman and Garrecht-Connelly also will compete in slopestyle.

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