Robby Zehner cuts around a gate in December at Steamboat Ski Area during a  Town Challenge giant slalom race. Zehner had the fastest raw time Sunday at the 2010 NASTAR National Championships.

File photo

Robby Zehner cuts around a gate in December at Steamboat Ski Area during a Town Challenge giant slalom race. Zehner had the fastest raw time Sunday at the 2010 NASTAR National Championships.

Steamboat's Robby Zehner has fastest raw time at NASTAR championships

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Nature Valley NASTAR

2010 National Championships, Winter Park

March 25-28

Local finishers

Men

Platinum

Connor Bernard, first 15-16

Robby Zehner, first 21-29

Pete Wither, first 65-69

Tom Zehner, second 40-44

Bill Ward, third 70-74

Delaney Tyon, fifth 7-8

Roger Ross, fifth 70-74

Bill Harris, fifth 65-69

Ralph Nielsen, 11th, 60-64

Jeff Young, second, 45-49

Gold

Pascal Ginesta, second 40-44

Jacob Ginesta, 12th 13-14

Silver

Liam Baxter, first 7-8

John Taylor, ninth 55-59

Bronze

Anders Brockway,14th, bronze 9-10

Telemark

Tom Degroff, first 60-64

Ray Heid, first 70-74

Women

Platinum

Jennie Symons, first 9-10

Martha Anderson, first 15-16

Sandy Schwindy, first 55-59

Patti Zehner, first 60-64

Gold

Ryli Adrian, second 5-6

Linnea Dixson, second 17-20

Silver

Debbie Ginesta, first 40-44

Carole Ward, first 70-74

Laurie Harris, fourth 50-54

Linda Blazek, fifth 60-64

Ski racer Connor Bernard traveled to the 2010 NASTAR National Championships last week hoping to land a national title, and on Sunday, he landed in one of the biggest races of the weekend.

“This year has been a struggle,” Ber­nard said. “But this event is just a lot of fun, and it doesn’t seem to matter how well you are skiing.”

Luckily for Bernard, he just happened to be skiing pretty well last weekend. He won the platinum division for the 15- and 16-year-olds for the second year in a row. He also came within one run of winning the raw time in Sunday’s Race of Champions and earning a trip to Chile to train with the U.S. Ski Team.

“This is the second year that I’ve finished in second place,” Bernard said. “I was excited, but I didn’t go there with too many expectations.”

The expectations were on the shoulders of fellow Steamboat Springs ski racer Robby Zehner, who has posted the fastest raw time in the Race of Champions the past four years. His reputation as one of the top NASTAR racers also grabbed the attention of camera crews, which were in Winter Park to cover the NASTAR championships for an upcoming TV show.

“There were a bunch of cameras following me all week,” Zehner said. “So when I stepped into the starting gate, there was a lot of added pressure and a lot of expectations for me to defend my title.”

Zehner said he remained focused on making a solid run and not pushing too hard.

“He had an amazing run at the top,” Bernard said. “I knew it opened up at the bottom, so when he got to that point, I knew he had it.”

But Bernard is not disappointed after losing to Zehner in the final race and said that this was the best he has raced this season. He may not have left with a Race of Champions title, but he said he found a new perspective at the NASTAR event that he thinks will help him in the future.

“It definitely impacted my mood,” Bernard said. “I’m pretty confident in the way I’m skiing right now, and hopefully I can carry that momentum into the last few races of the season.”

Zehner also left the races feeling positive. He said he has been doing whatever it takes to stay involved with ski racing the past few years, and after posting the fastest raw time in the Race of Champions for four straight years, he is considering getting his FIS license next year and returning to FIS ski racing.

Bernard and Zehner highlighted Sunday’s racing, but they were just a couple of the racers who traveled to Winter Park for the event. As a resort, Steamboat finished second to Copper Mountain in the race for the team title (which is based on the average team points of each racer). Chestnut Mountain Resort was third, and Winter Park came in fourth.

The past four years, the NASTAR event has been in Steamboat Springs. This year, the events moved to Winter Park, where they will remain through 2011.

“This is something that we’ve wanted to do for the last four years,” local racer Debbie Ginesta said. Ginesta took first place in the silver division for ski racers ages 40 to 44. She raced in Winter Park with her husband, Pascal, and her son, Jacob. Pascal finished second in the gold division for men ages 40 to 44, and Jacob was 12th in the gold division for skiers ages 13 and 14.

“This was my first time at the national championships,” Ginesta said. “It was a great time and a great event. It was so cool to see all the Olympic athletes who were there to be a part of the event. They were all so accessible, and that was really nice.”

The NASTAR national championships drew more than 1,100 racers and an estimated 5,000 people to the Winter Park Resort, Bernard said. Racing was March 25 through 28 and included divisions for skiers ages 1 to 94. The racers competed in platinum, gold, silver and bronze divisions. There were also divisions for snowboarding, Telemark skiing and skiers with disabilities.

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