Like any good competitor, Ben Morse had already put last year’s Junior Olympics behind him.

Even though he was one of the top performers in his age group in New York last March, it was now summertime, and what happened during the previous winter season had little relevance to him now.

So he thought.

When the United States Ski Association decided to send skiers to the Trofeo Topolino in Italy this March, it was the Junior Olympics from last year that were used to select representatives.

“They decided after the Junior Olympics that they’re going to send someone to the Trofeo Topolino, and that is how they were going to to determine who it was,” said Morse, a freshman at Carrabassett Valley Academy.

It meant good news for Morse, a Farmington native whose family now lives in Carrabassett Valley. He was the representative from the Eastern Division, joining other 14-15-year-olds from the Rocky Mountain and Western divisions to represent the United States in Italy.

“It was weird because I was hearing about skiing stuff around July 4, but I was ecstatic,” said Morse. “It was totally unexpected and a really cool surprise.”

The Trofeo Topolino, which began in 1958, is often referred to as a mini-Olympics. This year’s event in the Lagorai Mountain Range hosted competitors from more than 40 countries.

The event featured opening ceremonies, fireworks, closing ceremonies and the opportunity to mingle with skiers from all over the world.

“You kind of felt overwhelmed just trying to take it all in,” said Morse, who was accompanied by his family, which includes parents Earle and Pam and younger brother Sam, and coach Chip Cochrane. “In addition to the racing, you met all kinds of people. There were 44 countries there, and people from Australia, Japan and even Morocco. That was really cool.”

Morse was just thrilled with the opportunity to be there, but the event was only enhanced by his performance on the slopes. He finished third in the slalom and took sixth in the giant slalom.

“I could have dreamed it, but realistically, I was just hoping to ski well,” said Morse.

His first race was the slalom. He finished sixth in the first run and won the second run to take the bronze behind Alaska’s Kieffer Christianson and Italy’s Andrea Ravelli.

“I had a good day,” Morse said. “I started 66th. I just charged hard, and I had some good rippin’ runs. I just skied fast.”

He followed that up with his sixth-place finish in the giant slalom the next day.

It not only made for a great experience for Morse, it gave him a taste of what he could accomplish. He hopes to take the next step to the Junior level next year, and then continue his ascension up the U.S. Ski Team ranks, maybe even reach the real Olympics.

“It’s still a long ways off, but it’s really great to experience that type of thing,” said Morse. “It was a snippet of the world stage, and how it will really be.”

Having competed at that level gives him confidence to build from and knowledge that he can succeed.

Morse was back in the states for the Junior III Olympics at Stratton Mountain, Vt., and had podium finishes in all three events, taking second in the slalom and third in the giant slalom and Super-G. He currently has a slate of races in New Hampshire and Vermont. He knows he still has to ski hard and build off his success in Italy as opposed to resting on those laurels. Still, it was an experience that may be hard to top for some time.

“I was really glad to have my coach there and my family went too,” said Morse. “It was a great experience. One I’m sure I won’t forget.”

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