Two days, two podiums

Two days and two podiums.

If Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club ski racer Ryan McConnell gets his way, he will make it three-for-three today when he takes to the snow for the giant slalom -- the final event of the J4 Junior Olympic Festival in Steamboat Springs.

"I'm going to really get after it and push hard," McConnell said. "This is my last chance, and I really want to finish it off on a good note."

The Steamboat Springs Middle School student added to his collection of medals Friday with his second third-place finish of he week.

After placing third in Thursday's super-G event, McConnell came to Howelsen Hill and repeated his efforts in the first of two slalom races.

Hunter Schleper of Ski Club Vail ripped down the still-icy course in a time of 41.01 seconds to record the fastest run of the day in the first race. Summit's Tyler McKnight was second at 41.99, and McConnell crossed the finish line at 42 seconds flat.

Steamboat's Hig Roberts was 10th in the race, and Andrew White was 22nd.

"I had a good first run. I went early, so the course was still pretty hard," McConnell said. "The conditions were pretty good."

But by the afternoon, the high temperatures changed the racecourse dramatically. Course workers used salt to ice things up, but skiers who ventured outside of the prepared swath paid the price -- and McConnell was one of them.

"I got into the slush on my second run, and I lost a ski," McConnell said.

But the Steamboat skier didn't complain.

"It was nice today," McConnell said. "It was a lot better than sitting at the top shivering while you are waiting for your turn. I liked it.

The warm conditions failed to slow McKnight (second in the first race) who won the event in a time of 42.38. Sports Hut skier Marc Massie was second at 42.61, and Schleper came in third.

The top Steamboat finisher was White in 10th place. Tony Rende was 43rd, and Scott Ptach was 51st.

"We had a lot of skiers blow out on the second run," Steamboat coach Scott Wither said. "But we don't have time to focus on that because we have another race Saturday. The cool thing about the Junior Olympic Festival is that we don't have time to dwell on our bad races."

Today's giant slalom race will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Steamboat Ski Area's Sitz/SeeMe race arena with the women. The men are set to start racing at 9:30 a.m.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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