3 Steamboat skiers in top 25 at Freestyle Junior Nationals event

Junior Nationals start with halfpipe in Steamboat

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— It’s always good to be home.

So even as Conor Garrecht-Connelly, Landen Mertz and Lennon Vaughan had their ups and downs Wednesday during the opening halfpipe competition at the Freestyle Junior Nationals, each said it was good to be able to compete in Steamboat Springs.

“I’m a hometown boy,” Mertz said. “I always wanted to do (Junior Nationals) in my hometown. This year, I was getting competitive. When I heard it was in Steamboat, I was pumped. When I got the invite, I was psyched. This was awesome.”

It certainly wasn’t a down day for the three as Vaughan was 13th, Mertz finished 17th and Garrecht-Connelly was 21st, with 51 skiers competing.

But the conditions proved to be the biggest hurdle Wednesday in Bashor Terrain Park at Steamboat Ski Area. After snow Tuesday pasted the halfpipe, it became apparent that speed was going to be the key. The sun came out midway through the competition and softened up the snow.

About half the field struggled to get out of the pipe, leading to low scores.

Garrecht-Connelly, who came into the event in position to get a shot at the podium, struggled with his speed on both his runs. He said he thought the difference for him was the halfpipe design. He said he is used to bigger pipes and said the pitch on Steamboat’s isn’t as great as a lot of those he skis on.

“I was having a lot of trouble keeping my speed through the flat bottom,” he said. “It was pretty slow throughout the day. You really have to take more of a trajectory down the pipe instead of across it.”

Mertz and Vaughan landed big second runs to move into the top 20.

“I thought they skied solid but maybe left a little on the table,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club freeride coach Jonah Drescher said. “At Conor’s last Juniors, he went for it, and it just didn’t happen. Lennon, though, skied great in his first (Juniors). To get 13th was fabulous.”

The Freestyle Junior Nationals continue at 10:15 a.m. today with the slopestyle competition, again in Bashor Terrain Park. Single moguls begins at 10:15 a.m. Friday, aerials are at 10:45 a.m. Saturday and the event concludes with dual moguls at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. The moguls and aerials events are on Mayer’s Mogul Run on Voo Doo ski run at Steamboat Ski Area.

— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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