Steamboat Springs A trio of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes may face their most important test of the season this week.
Mary Rose, Molly Newman and Peter Daley are traveling to compete at the U.S. cross-country skiing national championships in Anchorage, Alaska.
"It's the next step in ski racing," Newman said. "It's really cool, being able to race with the top skiers and the skiers from all the colleges."
The trio certainly will be among the stars of the sport, racing against U.S. Ski Team members and many of the top Nordic athletes in the country.
A strong showing could pay off big for Steamboat's young entrants.
Rose and Newman hope to pre-qualify for the Junior Nationals. The top 20 junior competitors all make the cut.
An even better performance would allow them to compete in a Scandinavian circuit, a prize awarded to only the top six junior racers.
"It would be nice if I could qualify for Scandinavia," Rose said. "You'd travel to Europe and race against the top juniors in the world. It would really help set you apart from the top skiers in the country."
Rose and Newman are off to hot starts. Rose won the J1 5-kilometer classic skiing race at last month's Steamboat Junior Nationals Nordic qualifier event at Howelsen Hill. Newman was third.
Rose took second in the skate-skiing Women's Open sprint, while Newman finished third.
"They are in very good form. I think they both have an outside chance of finishing in the top six," SSWSC Nordic coach Brian Tate said. "This is maybe the best we've seen from them. They're in excellent shape and have been training since the first week of May."
Daley also could earn all of the same honors, but he sees the race as a great chance to open the eyes of college coaches.
There's no better stage for a breakthrough performance, and he hopes such a showing can catapult him onto a university's Nordic team next year.
"There's going to be a lot of really good skiers up there," he said. "It's going to be quite an experience. It will be my first national race. I may not do really well, but my main goal is to race to my full potential."
Daley may be new to the scene, but Rose and Newman have become big-race veterans. Rose will be returning to nationals for the third time, while Newman will be racing there for the second consecutive year.
That experience could be valuable as they chase their goals in an incredibly talented field.
"They've put a lot of miles under the running shoes and skis training for this," Tate said. "It helps with their anxiety levels that they've been there before. They won't be as intimated by the whole largeness of it and the fact that all the nation's best skiers are there."
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