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Two years ago, Blair Russin told his parents he was delaying going to college to seek his fame and fortune.

He didn't head for Hollywood, and this is no storybook tale. But things have worked out well for the 20-year-old Amherst High School graduate, whose move to Burlington, Vt., has resulted in some exposure and a few dollars.

Russin is a sponsored team rider for Burton, a leading snowboard manufacturer, and today he will be shooting for the $3,000 first prize in the half pipe competition at the $50,000 U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships at Stratton, Vt.

He qualified by finishing ninth on the American Pro Snowboard Series circuit, winning one event at Sugarbush. Burton matches all of his winnings.

Russin is not a member of Burton's pro team, which is comprised of 15 men and women. However, according to Barry Dugan -- Burton's sponsored team manager for North America -- most of his pros have started as sponsored riders.

A sponsored rider has expenses covered when he competes on the circuit and has bonuses in his contract if he gets exposure in magazine advertising or videos. Russin picked up a little of each this year: He is featured in Burton advertising this month for the U.S. Open in Snowboarding and International Snowboard magazines and he is on two videos currently on sale, "Deuce" and "Transworld Snowboarding Video, Issue One."

Danielle Smithmeyer, a 14-year-old from Lake View, was to have shoulder surgery Friday, bringing to a close an outstanding season.

After spending the fall term of her freshman year at Mount Mercy, she packed off to the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid for some training under freestyle coach Peter Young, who has guided Olympic and World Cup skiers.

Already a member of the U.S. Development Ski team, she qualified for the junior nationals (finishing first in her age group and seventh overall) in the combined (moguls, ballet and aerials) and the senior nationals in aerials. Under Young, she learned how to do inverts (upside down aerials), a staple of the World Cup circuit.

Because of rapid progress, the NSA has asked her to return full time for her sophomore year. That progress included so many strong finishes in regional events that Smithmeyer figured she didn't have to attend the junior nationals to qualify for the senior nationals. And so she skipped the juniors to train at Lake Placid for the seniors.

They are this weekend in Utah, and for obvious reasons she won't be there. Smithmeyer broke a bone in her shoulder while skiing, but it wasn't while doing one of her aerial stunts.

Making a quick turn to avoid a group of recreational skiers, Smithmeyer caught an edge and went over some rocks and into the trees. She found out that day that she had, indeed, qualified for the senior.

The gold medal that AJ Kitt of Rochester won in the downhill Thursday at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Snowbasin, Utah, was his first since 1991.

Erik Schlopy, originally of Hamburg but now of Park City, Utah, finished ninth.

In the women's downhill, Jennifer Collins of Allegany finished 30th, but she is stronger in the technical events.
Holiday Valley has several events planned as it tries to stretch the ski season to April 16. The Bump and Burn Mogul Competition, a head-to-head race, will be run April 1. On April 2, the Mayor's Cup Empire State Technical Skiing Championships -- which will include technical skiing, a mogul run and a giant slalom -- are on the schedule. Also April 1 is the Glacier Golf Tournament. Participants purchase three balls for $1 and chip at targets made of snow. Proceeds go to a former Holiday Valley employee fighting cancer. . . . Holiday Valley still has four lifts serving 21 trails in operation. Kissing Bridge has a quad lift and a J-bar serving seven slopes in operation.
Around the mountains: Andrea Schmidt finished ninth overall in the women's moguls at the Freestyle Junior National Championships on March 9 at Winter Park, Colo. Among the men entered in the mogul competition, Garrett Mayer finished 15th, Eric Mayer 30th, Scott Steffan 42nd and Travis Mayer 48th. All ski for Holiday Valley. . . . Michelle Swiatek of East Aurora finished 26th in slalom and 40th in giant slalom and Clement Smith III of Ellicottville finished 24th in Super G, 26th in slalom and 45th in GS at the Junior I and II Junior Olympics (ages 15-18) at Sugarloaf, Maine. Evelyn Besant of East Aurora finished 33rd in GS at the J-III Junior Olympics (ages 13-14) at Killington, Vt.

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