Aspen J4s claim overall titles at Junior Olympics |

Aspen J4s claim overall titles at Junior Olympics

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen, CO Colorado
Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club's Devon Cardamone passes a gate Friday en route to a fourth- place finish in giant slalom at the J4 Junior Olympics at Winter Park. (Courtesy Michele Cardamone)

WINTER PARK, Colo. ” Two individual overall titles. A team gold medal for the best batch of combined results.

It was a good three days for Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s best 11- and 12-year-old skiers last week at the J4 Junior Olympics at Winter Park, espe­cially for Julia Mueller-Ristine and Devon Cardamone.

Mueller-Ristine’s string of podi­um results earned her the girls overall title while Cardamone fin­ished strong Saturday to claim the boys overall trophy. A field of 164 of the best skiers from the Rocky Mountain and Central Divisions competed at the March 20-22 event.

Mueller-Ristine got off to a good start in Thursday’s super G, skiing cleanly despite blustery condi­tions to claim the silver medal.

“She won both training runs and was really prepared coming in,” said AVSC’s head age class coach, Alice Black, in a club news release.

Ilona Schwarz was 19th and Keile Kropf moved up to finish 25th overall out of 68 competitors. “Keile came in as an underdog, but she skied great and really turned it on,” Black said.

On the boy’s side, Cardamone aced his run to win gold.

“His training run was outstand­ing and you could tell he was faster than everyone else just by looking at him,” Black said.

“Devon’s instincts are very sharp and he knew what to do,” added coach Rohan Verplank.

Colby Lane joined Cardamone on the podium with a bronze medal and was first among the first-year J4s.

“Colby had a clean run going up top and was moving so fast that, even when he had to scrub his speed at the bottom, he still wound up third,” Verplank said.

With seemingly no fear of bod­ily harm, 11-year-old Dean Tra­vers skied with Bode-esque reck­less abandon to wind up fifth.

Andrew Hancock and Xon Baker finished 16th and 17th, respectively.

“Dean was a madman out there,” Black said. “Having no sense of self- preservation makes for a good speed skier.”

“Dean’s result is terrific considering he just started ski racing this season,” Verplank added.

Mueller-Ristine again skied cleanly in both of her giant slalom runs Friday, winning both.

“Watching her, you knew she was going to win,” Black said. “Julia is active and moves really well from gate to gate.”

Verplank wasn’t surprised.

“She blew everyone away,” he said. “Julia dominates giant slalom the way the Central [Division] kids own the slalom.”

Eleven-year-old Danielle Brownell-Patty showed that first-year J4 skiers can also make some noise.

She finished fifth in the morning race, and was tops among 11-year-old skiers in the field by a healthy margin in the morning race despite wearing a wrist cast from an injury sustained during Thursday’s super G. She followed up with a ninth-place showing in the afternoon.

“Danni’s got a great touch on the snow and just wants to go fast,” Black said.

Schwarz also cracked the top 10 in the morning, finish­ing eighth.

“She really took it to the course,” Verplank said. “All the racers were carrying a lot of speed into the bottom part of the course and Ilona handled the transition really well.”

Schwarz took 17th in the afternoon. After failing to fin­ish the morning race, Kropf dusted herself off and bounced back to finish 19th in the afternoon.

Cardamone just missed the podium in Saturday’s morning giant slalom for the boys, finishing fourth.

Disappointed and wanting nothing less than a win on his dad’s birthday, Cardamone returned in the afternoon to dominate the field and claim the gold in the second GS. “He handled the pressure and left no doubt who the winner was,” Verplank said.

Hancock was ninth in the morning race and 10th in the afternoon. Lane was 10th in the morning and third in the afternoon.

“Third place for a first-year skier is incredible,” Verplank said. “He might be the best first-year skier I’ve ever coached.”

Despite starting 42nd, Travis Lundin moved up to finish 14th in the morning race and 11th in the afternoon.

Verplank said the afternoon run was the best Lundin’s ever skied.

“Remarkable,” Verplank said. ” Travis let it all hang out, got hip-checked by a gate, recovered and still finished 11th.” Brownell-Patty separated herself from the other first­years yet again with a fourth-place finish in Sunday morn­ing’s slalom race, followed by Mueller-Ristine in sixth.

“The separation between the racers was fractions of a second,” Black said.

Schwarz, despite tripping the starting wand a second early, finished 11th.

All the AVSC girls struggled with the afternoon slalom. Mueller-Ristine crashed hard and Schwarz was the top Aspen finisher, in 20th.

The overall championship was still in doubt heading into the final boys slalom races Saturday. AVSC’s skiers did their best to hold their ground against the powerhouse Central Division slalom specialists.

Lane took seventh with some mistake-free skiing in the tightly-contested morning slalom.

“There were less than 1 1/2 seconds separating first and tenth place,” Verplank said.

Cardamone finished 12th, Hancock was 13th and Lundin finished 20th.

Lane followed with a fourth-place finish in the after­noon and Cardamone was eighth.

Despite starting back in the pack, both Henry Woodrow and Tanner Spence made huge moves up the standings in the afternoon race. Woodrow started 47th and finished 23rd, and Spence leaped from 79th to 25th. Spence’s jump earned him the third-place “Bibbo” award.

After Cardamone’s and Mueller-Ristine’s overall tri­umphs earned them coveted spots on the U.S. team that will compete against the best 11-14 year-old skiers in the world at next month’s Whistler Cup in Canada.

AVSC also claimed the overall team title by a whopping 112 points over runner-up Vail.


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