Mary O’Connell, left, Max Scrimgeour and Emily Hannah celebrate after the 2012 National Cross Country Championships. O’Connell and Hannah qualified for the World Junior cross-country team while Scrimgeour qualified for the Scandinavian Cup.

Tom Scrimgeour / Courtesy

Mary O’Connell, left, Max Scrimgeour and Emily Hannah celebrate after the 2012 National Cross Country Championships. O’Connell and Hannah qualified for the World Junior cross-country team while Scrimgeour qualified for the Scandinavian Cup.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes shine at nationals

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— Prior to the start of the season, accomplishing what Mary O’Connell, Emily Hannah and Max Scrimgeour did wasn’t fathomable.

But after a banner week at the 2012 National Cross Country Championships in Rumford, Maine, the three skiers will get to experience competition on the international level.

O’Connell and Hannah were named to the Cross Country World Junior Championship team.

Scrimgeour was named to the 2012 Cross Country Scandinavian Cup Team.

“I would say at the beginning of the year, when we were making goals, Junior Worlds was up there, but it wasn’t a stated goal,” coach Josh Smullin said. “They surpassed their own expectations. They train a lot, and they train very well. It came through a lot of hard work.”

The top six J1 and OJ male and female skiers are chosen for the World Junior Championship team. Six male and female J1 skiers also are chosen for the Scandinavian Cup.

Hannah and O’Connell will leave Feb. 4 and travel to Latvia. They’ll compete in competitions there and in Estonia before the Junior Worlds begin Feb. 20 in Turkey.

“I’m so excited,” Hannah said. “We both did Nordic combined growing up. We’ve always been really competitive with each other. Without her, I wouldn’t be as fast.”

The Scandinavian Cup begins Feb. 8 in Latvia.

“They exceeded my expectation,” Smullin said. “We hadn’t competed against teams from Alaska and the Midwest. I had a feeling they could do really well. They did way better than that.”

The three skiers will take part in Friday and Saturday’s University of Colorado cross-country meet at Howelsen Hill.

The goal until the three depart will be trying to lower their FIS points so they can have better start positions.

“I’d say my goal is to get some international racing experience,” O’Connell said. “Going in, though, I don’t think I have expectations. But it’s pretty exciting. I’ve only been working on this for two years. It shows hard work pays off.”

By making the team, Hannah and O’Connell now are part of the National Training Group. They also are the first two athletes from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to make the team.

“It’s an extremely huge deal for the program,” Smullin said.

Those interested in helping out any of the three with expenses can make a donation in the athlete’s name to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club by calling 970-879-0695.

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

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