Steamboat Springs trio places in slalom race

Lauren Letson stopped just short of saying she and her teammates could ski the face of Howelsen Hill blindfolded.

The ski area is -- and has been -- the primary training ground for most of the Sailors since they were children. On Friday, the Steamboat girls and boys used their familiarity with Howelsen Hill to place well at the high school slalom race.

"We are so used to skiing it," Letson said. "We feel like we know it really well."

Senior Heidi Hillenbrand won the girls' race with a combined 1 minute, 28.48 seconds on her two runs. She had the fastest times on both slalom courses.

"It's fun to come out and race," said Hillenbrand, who had not competed in a high school race until Friday. "Most skiers are scared of this course. It's so steep."

A majority of Friday's field struggled to ski two clean runs. The girls were sent over the saddle on their second run, and the boys had a tight, two-gate combination to navigate near the bottom.

"The second run was definitely tougher than the first," sophomore Ramsey Bernard said. "I'm real happy with how I skied."

Bernard led the Steamboat boys with a second-place finish in 1:17.36. Letson was Steamboat's other female podium finisher, placing second behind Hillenbrand in 1:31.34.

With braided pigtails stuck up under her goggles, Letson said the atmosphere at Friday's high school race was looser than that of a Rocky Mountain Division, Junior Olympic or other type of race with more experienced competition.

"It's so fun to come out and hang out as a group," she said.

The Steamboat girls placed seven in the top 15. In addition to Hillenbrand and Letson, Kathleen Lyon, Robyn Dye, Jamie Gay, Anna Anderson and Hanna Berglund skied well for the Sailors.

Steamboat had eight girls in the top 20 after the first run. There were 124 registered skiers in Friday's girls race, but that dwindled to 75 before the second run.

Steamboat's boys also skied well, but Bernard was the only skier to finish on the podium.

Teammates Taylor Coe and Ryan Coe were positioned for a podium finish after the first run, but the boys lost some speed at the tricky gate combination near the bottom on the second run.

In skiing, hundredths of seconds make all the difference, so any miscue Friday cost skiers valuable time. Still, Taylor Coe finished eighth, and teammates Wiley Thayer and Michael Lyon were seventh and ninth, respectively.

Summit's boys took to the Howelsen Hill face, placing three in the top four, including Tanner Macdonald, who won with a combined time of 1:15.51. Like Hillenbrand, Macdonald posted the fastest times on both runs. There were 125 boys registered for Friday's race.

Drew Beling was third for Summit. Summit's Alex Guras also was third in the girls' race with a time of 1:32.99. Dressed in a dairy cow-patterned ski suit, Guras posted a 44.99 on her first run, which helped her secure a podium finish.

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