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Aspen’s J4s dominant at Prater Cup

Aspen Times Staff ReportAspen, CO Colorado

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club will be well represented at the upcoming J4 Junior Olympics.The club was the runaway winner of Feb. 22-24’s Prater Cup in Crested Butte. As a result, 16 competitors – the highest number in a decade, according to AVSC marketing and development manager Alan Cole – qualified to compete in the Junior Olympics in Winter Park on March 15-22. “Everyone stepped up when it counted,” said Rohan Verplank, AVSC’s alpine J4 (11- and 12-year-olds) coach, in a club news release.Devon Cardamone and Colby Lane finished 1-2 in the opening day’s super G. Xon Baker, who started 49th, passed a large portion of the field and finished ninth. Dean Travers (17th) and Andrew Hancock (19th) also finished in the top 20 in a field of 114.Julia Mueller-Ristine followed in Cardamone’s footsteps, winning the girls’ super G by three seconds. Had she raced with the boys, Mueller-Ristine would’ve wound up with bronze.”It wasn’t even close,” Verplank said. “Julia is a great skier, she’s deceptively smooth and really knows how to let her skis run.”Dannielle Brownell-Patty (3rd) joined Mueller-Ristine on the podium, and Ilona Schwarz took 15th out of 86. Hancock kept the club’s winning streak in tact with a victory in slalom on the second day of racing.”There were some tight places that threw a lot of boys, but Andrew did a great job keeping his feet under him and carried his speed,” Verplank said.Travers (6th) cracked the top 10, and four others – Henry Woodrow (12th), Baker (14th), Tanner Spence (15th) and Travis Lundin (16th) – finished in the top 20. Woodrow made his leap in the standings after starting 87th. Lundin’s finish might have been the most impressive, considering he broke his thumb one day earlier.”Instead of sitting the race out, he opted to qualify for JOs on his own terms,” Verplank said. “He taped himself up and flew down the course, cross-blocking the gates with a broken thumb. It was impressive.”Cardamone returned to the podium on day two, taking second in the afternoon slalom. Hancock finished fifth and Baker was 8th. Lundin followed in 11th, Matthew Gregory was 13th, Travers 15th and Roy Benge 21st. Mueller-Ristine continued her dominance with two wins in giant slalom. Brownell-Patty finished second and third.”She’s right up there with our best boys,” Verplank said. “Everyone was gunning to knock AVSC off our perch, but they kept coming up short.” Schwarz finished 15th, then seventh, and Keile Kropf posted matching 12th-place results after a disappointing showing in super G.Mueller-Ristine finally was knocked off the top of the podium on day three, finishing second to Steamboat Springs’ Samantha Stamp in the first of two slaloms. She failed to finish in the afternoon. Brownell-Patty was sixth and fourth, and Kropf took 13th and eighth. For her consistency, Brownell-Patty was honored with Prater Cup honors for best overall results. “It’s a terrific achievement for a skier in her first year in this age class,” Verplank said. “[It’s] something that doesn’t happen very often, and we’re very proud of her.”Lane helped AVSC leave a strong last impression on day three. With his qualification for the Junior Olympics still in doubt, Lane won both giant slaloms. After his fourth-place finish in the morning, Cardamone had pressure on his shoulders, too. He slammed a gate and knocked off his goggles, but still managed to negotiate the course in blizzard-like conditions to take eighth. Benge was 12th in the morning, and Lundin (11th) and Hancock (18th) had strong showings in the afternoon. Mueller-Ristine, Brownell-Patty, Schwarz and Kropf will look to have similar successes in Winter Park. They’ll be joined by 12 AVSC boys – Cardamone, Lane, Lundin, Hancock, Benge, Baker, Travers, Woodrow, Gregory, Spence, Brannen Haderle and Ben Throm.

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