College ski racers arrive in Steamboat for start of NCAA championships
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Most college freshmen look forward to coming home, getting a home-cooked meal and, if they are lucky, a chance to go to the grocery store to stock up on a few dorm room treats and have mom and dad pay the bill.
But in his first year at the University of Denver, 2017 Steamboat Springs High School graduate Jett Seymour may be a little more excited than most freshmen about coming home to Steamboat.
“Anytime I get to come home and race on the home hill, in front of the home crowd, representing Steamboat and DU, it’s definitely special,” Seymour said. “It would be crazy to win here. I have no idea how it would feel, because I’ve never experienced anything like it before. It think it would be surreal.”
Seymour is one of four skiers from Steamboat Springs who will be skiing in Steamboat this week as part of the 2018 NCAA National Collegiate Skiing Championships, which will take place March 7 to 10 on the slopes of Howelsen Hill and Mount Werner. Seymour and fellow alpine ski racer Tyler Theis, a junior at the University of New Mexico, will be competing in the slalom and giant slalom events.
“Lars Hannah, a junior at the University of Denver, and Finn O’Connell, a sophomore with the University of Vermont, will also be happy to have a chance to compete at home next week in the Nordic events.
Seymour said he is living a dream right now — he not only skis for one of the top college teams in the country, but he’s also a member of the U.S. Ski Team.
“I’m expecting there to be a little bit of pressure. I’m just hoping to ski fast and see if we can bring home some individual titles, as well as the national title,” Seymour said. “I don’t think I could have asked for this to work out any better than it did. I can’t complain a single bit. This was my dream (skiing in the NCAA Championships) four or five years ago, and it’s a reality now, so that’s super exciting.”
His team, the Pioneers, will be looking for a little payback after getting edged by Utah on the final day of the 2017 championships, which were held in New Hampshire.
DU head coach Andy LeRoy also graduated from Steamboat Springs High School and grew up ski racing at Howelsen Hill in the winter and played soccer and football at the high school. His teams at DU have competed for national titles in Steamboat two times in the past.
“Utah snuck it from us last year. We were leading the entire way, from the first minute of the first day, all the way through to the very end, but we had a very poor last race,” LeRoy said. “We could let it crush us, or we can chose to grow from it. I think our team has done a lot of growing. I don’t see it as any bit of a hindrance, and it will not be on our mind this week.”
LeRoy is hoping Seymour and Hannah, both former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes, will lead the way for the Pioneers at the National Championships. DU has won a recored 23 team titles, including nine national championships since 2000.
Teams started arriving in Steamboat Springs for the NCAA Championships on Sunday and will be training at Howelsen and Mount Werner early this week.
The first events begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday when the athletes step into the gates for the men’s giant slalom on the All Out race course at Steamboat Ski Area. The women’s giant slalom will begin at 12:30 p.m.
The Nordic races will step into the spotlight beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday with the start of the women’s 5k individual start classic race. That will be followed by the 10k men’s individual start classic race.
Alpine action will move to Howelsen Hill at 6:45 p.m. Friday with the first run of the women’s slalom race. The second is scheduled for 9 p.m. The first run of the men’s race is slated for 7:30 p.m. and the second will begin at 9:30 p.m.
The final day of the championships will begin at 9 a.m. with the men’s 20K mass start freestyle. The women’s race will follow at 10:30 a.m. Team and individual honors will be announced at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Howelsen Hill.
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The Basalt baseball team will head to the 3A state tournament later this week after pulling a pair of upsets in regional play on Monday. The Longhorns will join the other regional champs in the double-elimination tourney that starts Friday.