Former Steamboat favorites make freestyle mark

— The freestyle skiing season came to a close last week in Waterville Valley, N.H., but not before a couple of mogul skiers with roots in Steamboat Springs made some noise.

Ryan Riley, who trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club for several years before moving up to the U.S. Ski Team and graduated from Lowell Whiteman High School, won the men's singles event which was held in New Hampshire on March 16.

Fellow Steamboat skier Travis Mayer was fifth in the men's event. Neither of the skiers took part in the dual mogul events held on March 18.

Steamboat's Ryan St. Onge, who was recently profiled in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, placed 14th in

the singles.

Winter Sports Club moguls coach Bobby Aldighieri said it was an outstanding finish when you consider that St. Onge is an aerial skier. He placed fifth in the World Cup finals in aerials. Steamboat's Chris Pusey was also 25th in the event.

The women's event was won by home-state favorite Hannah Hardaway, a U.S. Ski Team member.

Hardaway is from Moulton- borough, N.H., but trained with Team Breckenridge before moving up to the U.S. Team.

She was followed by Donna Weinbrecht of Killington, Vt., and Jillian Vogtli of Ellicotville, Utah.

Steamboat favorites Ann Battelle was fourth in singles and Emily Heller posted a sixth place showing at the event.

"It was a great finish for Emily," Aldighieri said. "She was thinking about quitting after this year, but now I'm sure she will be back for at least one more."

Steamboat's Gina Gmeiner was 27th in the singles event after coming off of a top finish at the World Junior Championships just a week earlier in the Czech Republic.

"I grew up watching Donna (Weinbrecht) and Ann (Battelle) ski," Gina said. "It was great to be skiing at the same level."

At just 16 years old, Gina Gmeiner said she was happy with her placing.

In the summers she goes to camps where Battelle and Weinbrecht are coaches.

She said the final two weeks of her season were wonderful as she skied at the World Junior Championships in Spindoerov Mlyn in the Czech Republic where she placed in the top 16 of the dual mogul event. That was against the top junior skiers (under 19) in the world.

"It was the first time I've ever been to a foreign country," Gina said. "It was great."

Gina traveled to the Czech Republic along with teammates Travis Mayer (third in singles) and Emiko Torito.

Several young Steamboat skiers earned the right to compete in nationals by posting top finishes earlier this month at a national qualifying event in Killington.

Carly Gmeiner (who placed 31st in the singles at nationals) placed fourth in the singles event and third in the dual mogul event at the qualifiers.

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