Skiers set sights on nationals

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— The top J2 skiers in the country will take on the challenging terrain of Aspen Mountain this week hoping to prove they have what it takes to be a champion.

Racing opens Friday on the downhill course at Aspen Mountain. The super-G will follow on Saturday. Sunday is scheduled to host the men's giant slalom, with the women's giant slalom slated for Monday. The championships will come to a close Tuesday with men's and women's slalom races.

"These races are an opportunity to open a lot of doors. It can be the first step to making the U.S. Ski Team," said Anje Worrell, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's Alpine Program Director.

Eight skiers from Steamboat Springs will get their chance to open those doors when the field of 140 skiers - 80 men, 60 women - takes to the racecourses in Aspen.

The team from Steamboat includes Ryan McConnell, Hig Roberts, Max Marno, John Zinser and first-year J2 Sam Glaisher on the men's side. Cassidy Roberts will join first-year J2s Shane McLean and Anna Marno in the women's events.

"This is one of the largest groups we've sent," Worrell said. "For the first-year J2s, this is their first real taste of competition at this level. : These are the best skiers from around the country. This is a level of competition that many of these skiers have never seen."

At stake are titles in the downhill, super-G, giant slalom and slalom races. The events also are a chance for the top skiers in the field to gain the attention of national-level coaches, who will be handing out invitations to key training camps where skiers can gain the edge they need to take their talent to the next level.

Worrell said all of the Steamboat skiers have proven that they belong in the field. She has high expectations for all of them as they head to Aspen.

"They all have a chance. They have all been skiing really well," Worrell said.

She said McConnell and Max Marno have been strong all season, and Shane McLean is coming off one of the best showings of her career last weekend in Telluride.

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