Steamboat Springs The Olympics are the dream, the pinnacle for a young ski racer. But as those wide-eyed children grow up, the focus can shift.
It isn’t so much that skiers like Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Perri Meeks have given up on that dream. Indeed, Meeks, a high school junior at The Lowell Whiteman School, hopes skiing takes her places in the next four years.
It’s just that Meeks is hoping it takes her somewhere different.
“I’d love to ski in college some day,” she said.
The big races for the season have come and gone. Meeks was happy with her performances in those, her first stint in the qualifiers for the U18 National Championships, but she didn’t make the cut.
So Friday’s giant slalom in the SmartWool Championships and Tom Garner Games in Steamboat Springs wasn’t a huge step, a big result or a breakthrough moment.
For Meeks, it was nice, it was fun and it was fast.
She was fourth overall in the women’s GS and the top U18 skier.
“I was happy with it,” she said. “I got a little late and didn’t ski very clean, but I had fun.”
Friday brought a fast pair of giant slalom races at Steamboat Ski Area on a bright, sunny day.
Vail’s Lucia Bailey led the way on the girls side, finishing with a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 44.29 seconds. Anna Patterson, of Aspen, was second in 1:45:51. Vail’s Katelin Hennum rounded out the podium in 1:45.97, and Meeks was in fourth in 1:47.98.
Meg Anderson, 13th; Madeline Boucher, 16th; Sawyer Gander, 17th; and Mackenzie Ward, 18th, piled into the top 20 for the Winter Sports Club.
U.S. Ski Team Academy skier River Radamus was first for the men, in 1:37.23. Vail’s Bridger Gile was second in 1:38.99, and his teammate Jack Keane finished third in 1:39.19.
Jett Seymour was Steamboat’s top finisher, coming in fifth, and he had plenty of teammates in the top 20. Will McConnell fought into the top 10 with a ninth-place finish. Brittain Walton was 11th, Nate Bowman was 13th, Devin De Jong was 15th and Sam Frackowiak was 20th.
For some of those racers, the goal is making the U.S. team and competing in World Cups. For Meeks, making a college team would be a great payoff.
She grew up in Big Piney, Wyo., a small town of about 550 people. She used to commute to Jackson, Wyo., to ski race, but that drive — nearly 100 miles — wore on her and her family, and before last school year, she decided to try Lowell Whiteman at the same time business brought the rest of her family to Steamboat.
“It was hard because I was born and raised there,” she said. “It was a small town. I knew everyone and I was really comfortable there. It was a good move, though. I love it here, and I have a lot of great friends.”
The hope, at this point at least, is for University of Utah for a more rigorous ski program or University of Michigan for a more fun skiing experience.
“I have a lot of academic goals, too” she said. “I still have a year to think about it.”
Friday won’t make those college hopes become reality. Good results in this weekend’s final two races — starting with a slalom today at Howelsen Hill — won’t either, or at least not by themselves.
But every good result helps when chasing the dream, no matter what that dream is.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9