Junior freestyle skiers find podium

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— Nate Bird remembers coaching a few skiers in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's junior ranks since they were wee bump bashers, half his height.

It's why he can appreciate the strides they've made in freestyle skiing during the past six years. At this weekend's USSA event, the Animas Surgical Hospital Southwest Open at Durango Mountain Resort (Purgatory), many WSC skiers proved why Bird believes he's witnessing breakthrough years for them.

And it wasn't easy adapting to the deep and skied-out moguls of the Wapiti course.

"Going from our sculpted course on Voo Doo to the one at Purgatory, the kids adjusted well and stepped up," Bird said.

Steamboat's female skiers made a habit of occupying the top 10 spots. Alison Crowe finished fourth at Saturday's single moguls event, followed by Shelby Dyer (5th), Camille Bucci (6th) and Finnish junior national team transplant Isabella Cedercreutz (8th).

Cedercreutz led the WSC skiers Sunday, taking second, followed by Dyer (4th), Crowe (5th), Bucci (8th) and Jessica Mader, who returned to competition after a knee injury to finish in 10th.

Bucci landed on the podium with a third-place finish in Monday's dual moguls event, where Dyer and Mader finished eighth and ninth, respectively.

"It's awesome to see (Bucci) podium, and for (Dyer), that's the best finish she's ever had," Bird said.

After three straight podium finishes (including a dual moguls win), Jan. 11 to 13, at Lando's Mojo Bump Bash at the Steamboat Ski Area, Ryan Dyer finished fourth in Saturday's single moguls event and then was back on the podium, taking third at Monday's dual moguls event. Michael Degrandis took sixth at Saturday's singles, led all Steamboat's male skiers at Sunday's second singles event in seventh and then took seventh again at the duals.

Degrandis "is only 14 and has emerged as one of the top skiers in the region," Bird said. "And since a hurt ankle kept him out of U.S. Selections, (Ryan Dyer) has come out super hungry."

The freestyle skiers will continue improving USSA points in hopes of junior Olympic qualification as they head to the steep and challenging Mach 1 course at the Breckenridge Ski Resort for this weekend's competition.

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