Freestyle skier Cooper Babbitt flies out of the half-pipe Wednesday during the first day of the Freestyle Junior National competition at Steamboat Ski Area in Steamboat Springs. Slope-style competitors will compete today.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Freestyle skier Cooper Babbitt flies out of the half-pipe Wednesday during the first day of the Freestyle Junior National competition at Steamboat Ski Area in Steamboat Springs. Slope-style competitors will compete today.

Freestylers swarm into Steamboat Springs for Junior National

5 days of Junior National competition begins

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If you go

Thursday: Slope-style at 9:45 a.m., finals at 2:30 p.m.

Friday: Moguls at 10:15 a.m., finals at 3:15 p.m.

Saturday: Aerials at 10:45 a.m.

Sunday: Dual moguls at 11 a.m.

— If Wednesday was a preview of things to come, freestyle skiing fans better clear their schedules.

The 2012 Freestyle Skiing Junior National competition jumped into Steamboat Springs on Wednesday, with nearly a week of action kicking off in the super-pipe at Steamboat Ski Area. The week’s first competition sent athletes spinning, flipping, twisting, grabbing and — more than anything — flying into a warm Steamboat day.

“It was just great,” said Penn Lukens, one of two competitors from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to make the half-pipe finals. “They did a great job setting everything up, and that made everyone want to go big.”

Lukens finished 10th, and fellow Steamboat resident Lennon Vaughan was ninth.

Broby Leeds, of Vail, won the men’s competition, finishing with 91.6 points from the judges. His teammate Aaron Blunck was second with 89.0, and Colby Stevenson was third at 87.6.

“I was hoping to get around the top 10, so I was stoked to be right there at 10th,” Lukens said. “I wish I could have done a little better and gone a little bigger. … I think I just need to get better grabs on my tricks, have bigger amplitude and bigger spins. I need to up the ante a little bit.”

On the women’s side, Zyre Austin led the way. The 18-year-old lives in Glenwood Springs but spent the winter commuting to Copper Mountain. Knee injuries shifted her career goals, pushing her away from moguls skiing and slope-style competitions, and this was her first season working in the half-pipe.

She seems to be catching on quickly.

On Wednesday, she soared to the top with a 63 score on her best run, the first of the finals round. Jeane Crane Mauzy was second with 60, and Hannah Miles was third at 57.3. Austin entered the round in fifth.

“I thought my run was pretty good, but all the girls were going big. I didn’t know how I’d finish,” Austin said. “This was my first serious year competing in half-pipe. It’s really exciting because I’ve improved a lot since the beginning of the year. I’ve been working really hard, training every day. I put in the time, and to get to where you want to go feels great.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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