Thrilling weekend of ski racing wraps up Saturday
December 22, 2012
The end wasn't a surprise, or at least it shouldn't have been for anyone tuned into the busy weekend of ski competitions in Steamboat Springs.
Ana Kobal, the Slovenian slalom slayer, the ultimate Utah Ute, skied again to victory Saturday, completing a sweep of the three-race Surefoot Holiday Classic slalom event in Steamboat.
She won in the most dominating fashion possible, not only winning both races at Howelsen Hill and a third at Steamboat Ski Area, but doing so by notching the best time in every single run, a six-for-six swing through Ski Town USA.
"You're only as good as you are on your worst day, and she clearly showed that good day, bad day, she's right now above everyone else," said Deb Armstrong, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Alpine director. "She's athletic, resilient and it was so fun to see her style of skiing on the hill."
Elsewhere, racers with local ties found plenty of success, and none were better through the weekend or Saturday in particular than Shane McLean, a University of Colorado skier and a Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club product who flew in just behind Kobal for a second-place finish in the weekend's final women's race.
Kobal was first in both Saturday runs, earning the victory with a combined time of 1 minute, 25.76 seconds. McLean was right on her heels, 0.11 seconds back on the first run and 0.36 seconds back on the second to finish about half a second behind, in at 1:26.23.
"I really wanted to lay it down," McLean said. "Our coach had an inspiring talk with us last night about putting it all in, so I tried to do that."
McLean was good on her second run, but she said she could have been a bit better. She briefly took the lead and waited, looking up from the bottom of the hill as Kobal did her dance between the gates.
The announcer called Kobal's time, and McLean knew her fate. She grimaced for only a moment before hugging friends with a smile.
"The courses were a lot more turny today than they have been. There were some tough combinations," she said. "I got a little late, but I still felt good."
Jessica Honkonen, a fellow CU Buff, also wrapped up a stellar weekend with a third-place finish Saturday, coming in at 1:28.38.
U.S. Ski Team member and Winter Sports Club alum Anna Marno wasn't far behind in sixth, and Cassady Roberts was in ninth. Annie Ochs was 11th, Maria Hillenbrand was 15th and Serina Kidd was 16th, wrapping up the top-20 performances by local racers.
Marno's racing placed her second in the juniors ranks, finishing off a weekend that saw her place third, first and second in that classification.
"I felt really good about it. I haven't been skiing much slalom this year and I was excited to come back and race in Steamboat," Marno said. "This is always one of my favorite races of the year, and I couldn't miss it.”
Men’s race dominated by elite trio
At least with Kobal, figuring out the winner was easy. On the men's side, things couldn't have been tighter. The top three men in Saturday's finale accounted for eight of the weekend's nine podiums, and none of the trio ever was outside the top four in any of the three races.
On Saturday they each accounted for the fastest three times on both runs, but it was Mark Engel, a U.S. Ski Team athlete with the fastest first-run time, who emerged the overall winner when it was over.
He was third best on the second run, but his combined time still was good enough to cover the difference. Barely. His overcall time was 1:21.27. Joonas Rasanen, Thursday's champ and the runner-up Friday, was second again, at 1:21.41. Christopher Acosta, second Thursday and first Friday, was bumped to third with a time of 1:21.56.
"I had a faster first run than I'd had the previous two days, so I didn't have to play catch-up and I had a solid second run," Engel said. "The course was pretty short, so if you have to make up time on the second run, that's pretty difficult."
Max Marno paced Steamboat-based skiers. Now skiing for University of Denver, he finished seventh in 1:22.88.
The course for the men and the women took a heavy toll on the skiers. Nearly 40 percent of the men didn't finish after starting the race. About 30 percent of the women didn't finish.
"It's a great hill," Engel said. "It's steep the whole way, and you just charge it."
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com