Aspen’s McDonald finds home in top 10 at Ajax FIS ski races
Local skiers took to Aspen Mountain this weekend to participate in four FIS-sanctioned speed event races on the America’s Downhill course.
Thursday and Friday meant a strict downhill for the 78 men and 32 women registered, while Saturday and Sunday took racers down a fast, twisting super giant slalom.
Aspen’s Will McDonald fared well this weekend with top-10 finishes in each day of racing, including a third place in Saturday’s super-G. The 17-year-old said he entered the race to train for an upcoming trip to Europe, which will bring three weeks of further FIS racing.
“I just wanted to get my points down, and plus, this is my hometown,” he said.
McDonald, a former Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club (AVSC) racer, finished in eighth place in Thursday’s downhill with a time of 1 minute, 24.92 seconds. He took ninth Friday. (For results, see page 25-A.)
Saturday brought McDonald’s best showing of the weekend: a third place in the super-G (1:23.79). He came in fifth Sunday with an even better time (1:18.28).
Aspen local and former AVSC racer Fritz Ernemann joined McDonald in the top 10, taking seventh in both downhills and a fourth and an 11th in the super-G races on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Cain Mahan of Glenwood Springs faltered out of the top 10 only once in four days of racing. With third- and eighth-place finishes on Thursday and Friday, Mahan finished 17th in the first day of super-G racing at 1:26.02 on Saturday. He made up for it Sunday, however, ending up only .06 seconds behind the first-place finisher and going home with second place.
Five members of the Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club turned out for a little practice before next weekend’s Junior Olympic qualifiers. Jesse Durrance, a four-year member of the AVSC, finished 58th Thursday at 1:30.58 but improved in Friday’s downhill with a 47th-place finish at 1:25:40. He finished the super-Gs in 35th Saturday at 1:28.78, and although he brought his time up to 1:22.02 Sunday, he took 37th out of 77 racers.
Spencer Cleveland, finishing the downhills in 59th Thursday and 63rd on Friday, said AVSC racers faced a difficult course this weekend.
“I like the downhill better, but it was a lot harder than any course I’ve ever skied,” he said.
Even though he ended in 48th Saturday and 53rd Sunday, Cleveland said he preferred the last day of races.
“The first course was pretty technical, and the second one was faster and really fun,” he said.
AVSC coaches prepared their racers for a learning environment rather than a competition, Cleveland said.
“They told me I was here for the experience. They didn’t want me going into the race thinking I should win it,” he said.
Aspen High School senior and AVSC skier Charles Greenwood finished Thursday and Friday’s downhills at 1:29.28 and 1:26.43. Saturday marked Greenwood’s only super-G performance, a 47th-place finish at 1:31.10.
In the women’s division of the race, Ashley Cantrell said AVSC members had the benefit of familiar terrain.
“I think we did pretty well. We used the home-hill advantage,” she said.
Cantrell came in 23rd Thursday at 1:30.94 and 21st on Friday with a time of 1:26.74. She finished the super-G in 26th on Saturday at 1:33.55 and 28th on Sunday at 1:27.55.
“I usually do better with the super-G, but this weekend I did better with the downhill. The downhill course was pretty technical,” she said.
Cantrell’s AVSC teammate, Kelly Lussan, finished 27th in Thursday’s downhill with a time of 1:31.70 and 25th on Friday at 1:28.07. Lussan didn’t finish Saturday’s super-G but placed 25th on Sunday with a time of 1:26.93.
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