Steamboat youth snowboarders ready for Nationals

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— The 18 inches of recent snow at Northstar at Tahoe was a nice welcome for the crew of Steamboat Springs snowboarders arriving Friday for the USASA Nationals, which run from Sunday to April 7, at the California resort.

"I've been working up to this all year," said Carter Smalley, a 10-year-old rider who now feels the pressure to repeat - Smalley has won the competition's overall championship for the last three years and is now moving up a division to the 10- and 11-year-old "Menehune Boys'"division.

This season-culminating event for Steamboat's youth riders combines the five snowboarding disciplines of giant slalom, slalom, snowboardcross, halfpipe and slopestyle.

"It's insane, but fun," Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club snowboard program director Jon Casson said en route to the competition. "There's over 1,600 competitors in 22 divisions, five disciplines over five days with everyone from seven-and-under to 70-plus, with over 200 invited skiers as well."

Of the 25 snowboarders qualified from Casson's program, 22 will be competing (seven of which qualified in all five disciplines) as well as 15-year-old skier Chapman Geer.

"For the younger kids, it's the first step along the way to bigger competition," Casson said. "It's a great, big grassroots starting ground with competition from every region in the country and a variety of ages and skills."

Mick Dierdorff, 15, certainly knows the benefits of years of experience at the nationals.

"It's how you get involved with competition and the best competitive series for all the younger kids," said Dierdorff, who has competed in the nationals for the last four years, won the snowboardcross two years ago and has used the experience to begin competing at the higher-profile USSA Chevrolet Revolution Tour events. Now, in his first year eligible, Dierdorff will compete in the men's open class and then leave straight from the nationals to compete at the 2007 FIS Snowboard Junior World Championships, April 11 to 13, in Bad Gastein, Austria.

For other Steamboat riders like 13-year-old Summer Smalley, there is no bigger competition than the one that begins Sunday.

"My goal is to get third or higher overall," said Smalley, who took second overall to fellow Steamboat rider Maddy Schaffrick last year. "When I'm training, all I'm thinking about is the run I want to do at nationals."

"The competition has the people with the best abilities, so there's some pressure, but we're mostly out to have fun," added Schaffrick.

Visit www.usasa.org for more information and updated results.

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

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