5 Steamboat Springs skiers ready for NCAA Championships | SteamboatToday.com

5 Steamboat Springs skiers ready for NCAA Championships

Luke Graham

University of New Mexico skier Mary Rachel Hostetter rounds a gate at a competition earlier this season. Hostetter is one of five Steamboat Springs athletes prepping for the 2013 NCAA Championships this week.

— Survey the list of qualifiers for the 2013 NCAA Skiing Championships this week, and the names reflect the landscape of college skiing.

About half are from the United States, and the rest are from all across the world. Scour the long list of U.S. athletes, and it begins to tell the story of Steamboat Springs.

Those nights when the lights at Howelsen Hill give Steamboat its unique city skyline are paying off.

Five Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club members will take part in the national championships beginning Wednesday at the Snow Bowl and Rikert Nordic Center in Middlebury, Vt.

"It says a lot about Steamboat," said Hig Roberts, a junior at Middlebury who will ski the slalom and giant slalom course. "Especially this year, it shows there are so many of us. It shows the strength of the Winter Sports Club. It's been awesome. It pushed us enough. It was an environment where you're pushed to your athletic limits. It's pretty impressive in that way."

Roberts returns to the championships as the only all-American from Steamboat, thanks to a fifth-place finish in last year's slalom event.

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He'll be joined by his sister Cassady Roberts, who skis for Colby College. University of Denver skier Max Marno and University of New Mexico skier Mary Rachel Hostetter join the NCAA contingent from Steamboat in the slalom and giant slalom events.

"We grew up skiing, and here we are at 22 years old, and we still see each other at every ski race," said Hostetter, a senior racing her final collegiate race. "It's probably at the highest point of our skiing careers. It's cool to see that happen."

Hig Roberts probably has the best chance for a repeat performance. He enters the competition ranked ninth in giant slalom and fourth in slalom out of the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association.

Cassady Roberts is ranked 27th in giant slalom and 14th in slalom out of the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association. Marno, who will make his second trip to the NCAA Championships, is 13th in the giant slalom and 10th in the slalom out of the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association. Hostetter is 25th in giant slalom and eighth in slalom in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association.

Those numbers are based on results from the entire season.

Marno, who remains good friends with Hig Roberts, won his first collegiate race in a slalom event in Eldora this season.

Hostetter has four top-10 slalom finishes, including a third-place finish at the Colorado Invite.

"I would say I've got a shot in both," Marno said. "I want to go out and bring home a championship. My season has been a little inconsistent, but I have had some awesome races and finishes. I really don't think it's a long shot for me."

The Eastern skiers would seem to have an advantage with the course at Middlebury. Hig Roberts skis it nearly every day, and Cassady Roberts is well-versed on it. Marno and Hostetter never have skied the course, something that could come into play.

"There is definitely an advantage," Hig Roberts said. "It's quirky. There are a lot of different aspects that you won't see out west. It's got a bunch of different terrain."

The Alpine portion begins Wednesday with the giant slalom. The slalom event is Friday.

O'Connell Steamboat’s lone Nordic skier

Steamboat might not have the representation in the Nordic NCAA Championships field that it has in Alpine, but it has one heck of a skier in contention.

Dartmouth College freshman Mary O'Connell has burst onto the collegiate skiing scene during the past month.

O'Connell has won three of her past four Nordic races and racked up end-of-season Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association awards.

She enters the NCAA Championships as the top-ranked skier in that association for freestyle and fourth for classical. She also was named to the association’s first-team women's Nordic team. She was the TD Bank Leader Bib winner in women's freestyle and named the women's Nordic Rookie of the Year.

On the same course where the NCAA Championships will be held, O'Connell was 14th in the women's 5-kilometer classic event before winning the women's 15-kilometer freestyle mass-start event in mid-February.

The women's 5-kilometer classic event is Thursday. The NCAA Championships wrap up Saturday with the women's 15-kilometer freestyle event.

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

2013 NCAA Skiing Championships schedule

Wednesday: Giant slalom

Thursday: Women’s 5K, men’s 10K classic

Friday: Slalom

Saturday: Women’s 15K, men’s 20K freestyle

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