Steamboat Springs Anna Marno will forgive you if you can’t find Centennial, Wyo., on the map.
“It’s really just a dot,” she said Wednesday after returning back to Steamboat for the Surefoot Holiday Classic.
The town, west of Laramie in the Snowy Range Mountains, reported a population of 270 people in the 2010 census. But to 20-year-old Marno, it was 16 square miles of paradise.
“Growing up where I did really did benefit me in terms of my skiing career,” said Marno, who came to Steamboat when she was 11 to ski with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “That’s just what we did every day. That’s what our family time was on the weekend.”
That love for skiing, racing and playing in the snow that she found in Centennial and at Snowy Range Ski Area never has left.
And judging by the way she talks about it, especially about her budding racing career, it probably never will.
Marno is tied for the lead with Canada’s Erin Mielzynski at the halfway point of the Alpine NorAm Cup.
In five NorAm events in Copper earlier this month, she had three podium finishes including winning the opening super G competition by more than a second. On the year, she has 10 top-seven finishes in 14 events.
“If she stays focused and on the track she’s on, she’ll have a lot of great opportunities,” said Trevor Wagner, the U.S. Ski Team’s women’s Europa Cup head coach.
Those opportunities are as real as ever for Steamboat’s next great Alpine hope.
Marno tore the ACL and meniscus in her left knee in a crash in Aspen in February 2011. The rehab and downtime were good for her, but more than anything, it made her remember the sport she fell in love with as a child in Wyoming.
It was skiing she loved. It was competing. More than anything, it was racing.
“I tried to knit a pair of socks,” she said. “I got one done, then thankfully, I was off crutches.”
After her injury, she fell behind. She didn’t have the leg work most other skiers had, and her results suffered. But by the end of the year, she again was making noise on the NorAm tour.
She instantly knew this summer that her knee was better. She was feeling the best she ever had. After several FIS races where she was disappointed by results, she found herself at the opening super G NorAm event in Copper Mountain.
She won by a second.
“That day, I just wasn’t willing to let anyone beat me,” she said.
Now is a pivotal point for Marno. She’ll ski in Europa Cups in January before returning to the NorAm circuit in February. She’ll also have one last crack at the Junior World Ski Championships in February in Quebec, Canada.
Should she maintain her lead in the NorAm Cup, she’d guarantee herself some World Cup starts during the 2013-14 season.
“Next year, I see her racing a select few World Cups,” Wagner said. “Some World Cups, NorAms and Europa Cups. Then the year after that, hopefully she’ll be a full-time World Cup skier.”
If Marno has learned anything, it’s that there are hiccups in a racer's career. But the past three season have taught her the most important thing: Skiing is what she does and what she always has wanted to do.
“Of course, when you’re 5 to 8 years old, you want to go to the Olympics,” Marno said. “I just never let it slip away. I never really doubted it. I played soccer and did horseback riding, but when I had to choose, I chose skiing. It’s really what I want to be doing.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com