Steamboat athletes shine at ski jumping, nordic combined championships | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat athletes shine at ski jumping, nordic combined championships

Steamboat Springs ski racer Niklas Malacinski competes at this year's junior national championships.

Earlier this month Steamboat Springs High School junior Decker Dean was focused on collecting strong finishes at a couple of big season-ending ski jumping championships, and heading into the summer with as much confidence as possible.

"I had a pretty good season," Decker said. "I jumped a lot better toward the end of the season after Junior Worlds, and in the second half. The second half was really good because I started winning a lot of competitions, Junior Nationals was really, really good."

In fact Dean was one of many ski jumpers and Nordic combined athletes that hit the road the final week of February and the first week of March to compete in some of the biggest competition of the season, and brought back top finishes.

Junior National Championships

The most notable finishes came at the 2018 U.S. Junior Nationals Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championships that took place in Anchorage, Alaska on Feb. 20 to 24.

Decker was one of six Steamboat skiers to bring titles from that event, which is normally the highlight of the season for these young skiers.

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Decker earned the title in the U20 boys division, Annika Belshaw won the U16 girls division and Alexa Brabec earned a junior nordic combined title in the U16 girls division.

Belshaw and Brabec teamed up to win the girls team jumping event, Niklas Malacinski and Erik Belshaw teamed up to win U16 boys Nordic combined team sprint and Tess Arnone and Brabec teamed up to collect the title in the U16 girls Nordic combined team event.

Other top finished included Erik Belshaw's second and Malacinski's third in the U16 boys special jumping and Nordic combined events, Bennett Gamber's third in the U20 Nordic combined event and Tess Arnone's second in the U16 girls Nordic combined event. In addition to his national title, Dean also won the elimination jumping event.

Several Steamboat skiers teamed up to earn top finishes in the boys team jumping event where Dean, Gamber, Canden Wilkinson and Erik Belshaw placed third in the standings, and the U16 boys Nordic combined team event where Dean and Gamber placed second.

Western Regionals

The Junior Nationals set up another strong showing as the members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club traveled to Park City, Utah to compete Western Regional Championships on March 2 to 3.

Competition there started Friday with special jumping competitions on the HS15, HS20 and HS42. Notable Steamboat finishes included Emma Russell and Ella Wilson who tied for first in the U10 girls division on the HS15 . Steamboat’s Eva Minotto placed third.

Nathen Rind topped the U10 boys event slipping past teammates Charlie Gun who was second and Lawton Bridger who was fourth. Steamboat's Ryan Becker was seventh, and  Riley Gunn was 10th.

Minotto won the U12 girls event that was held on the HS20. She was followed by teammates Ella Wilson in third, Shea Sias in fourth and Russell in sixth. Steamboat's Jason Colby won the U12 boys division, with Tirone in third, Kade Lawton in fourth and Owen Wither in seventh. Koen Stroock was ninth and Sawyer Graves placed 11th, Rind was 14th, and Gun was 15th.

Aspen Bennett-Manke represented Steamboat in U14 girls division, which was held on the HS42. Thomas Miller won the U14 boys division with Wither in third, Stroock in fifth, Colby in sixth, Graves in seventh, Kade Lawton in 10th, Sam Acosta-Pabley in 13th, Nick Hammer in 14th and Ried Sias in 17th.

On Saturday's the competition moved to the HS68 hill, but Steamboat skiers kept collecting top finishes.

Annika Belshaw topped the U16 girls competition and also won the U20 class. Her brother Erik Belshaw won the boys event and was followed by Canden Wilkinson in second, Gunnar Gilbertson in third, Miller in seventh and Graves in eighth. Gamber won the U18 boys competition.

Dean remained hot in Utah where he won the U20 mens competition on the HS100. Gamber was sixth, Gilbertson was seventh, Erik Belshaw was eighth and Wilkinson was ninth. Belshaw topped U.S. Ski Team, and Steamboat Springs skier Logan Sankey to win the U20 women's event and U.S. Nordic combined skier Bryan Fletcher, just back from the Olympics, took the victory in the senior mens class.

Steamboat also dominated the Nordic combined events during the weekend.

The strongest showing came in came in the U16 boys division where Erik Belshaw, Wilkinson and Gilbertson went 1-2-3 in the boys race and Tess Arnone topped the girls.

Steamboat athletes also shone in the U10 division where Nathen Rind, Charlie Gun and Bridger Lawton went 1-2-3 and Ella Wilson topped the girls race.

In the U12 age division in was Minotto and Sias going 1-2 in the girls race, and Tirone and Graves placing third and fourth, respectively in the boys division. Steamboat also recorded the sweep in the U14 girls division, with Bennett-Manke, Tinsley Wilkinson and Ella Stroock going 1-2-3.The top Steamboat finisher in the boys race was Miller in third, with his teammates taking fourth, fifth, sixth, seven, eight and ninth.

For the majority of Steamboat athletes the race was the final one of the season. However, Decker will be traveling to Sweden with Winter Sports Club U14 coach Garrett Fisk on March 17 for an added competition, Annika Belshaw will go to the World Cup women's finals in Oberstdorf, Germany March 23 to 25 and Gamber will be competing in a Youth Cup in Trondheim, Norway, also on March 17.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.