AVSC Nordic skiers tackle Olympic track in Utah
At the Winter Olympics venue in Soldier Hollow, Utah, the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club last weekend fielded a large team of athletes ranging from U10s to U18s for the SuperQualifier event. Skiers competed in classic and sprint races.
“All of the Western regions were there, so it was more like a Western U.S. Junior National Championship,” said Maria Stuber, program director.
Jack Sweeney’s ninth, Jozie Wille’s 14th and Chelsea Moore’s 19th place were the top sprint finishes, according to Stuber. In the 10K classic, Sweeney went ninth and Wille 16th.
Personal bests were commonplace in Soldier Hollow, as both Melody Lemke and Ricky Wojcik had what Stuber called “phenomenal personal best races in the freestyle sprint.”
Both placed in the top half of the field though they missed the sprint heats by very narrow margins.
In addition to the SuperQualifier, AVSC sent seven skiers to the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) race at Cordillera that was hosted by Eagle Valley High School. Maya McDonough was the top AVSC finisher, landing in 29th overall.
Stuber said the individual placings of the younger skiers are not broken out because effort is more important than results. That said, she did single out Colt Whitley’s sixth-place finish in the 3K classic as an outstanding finish.
This weekend, the focus shifts from competition to pure fun, as the AVSC Nordic program host the 30th annual Nordic Bonfire Dinner from 6-8 p.m. at the Aspen Golf Course’s cross country center. It takes place on Saturday, Feb. 7. Enjoy great food from local restaurants while also supporting the AVSC Nordic program.
Tickets run $12 for kids, $25 for adults and $50 per family of four. Go to teamavsc.org for more information.
Over the past two weekends, AVSC has hosted large fields for both the Roaring Fork Cup races and, on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, an Age Class series of events that attracted emerging junior racers from the Rocky Mountain division.
Results from the Bolle Age Class races are listed in this week’s AVSC results.
AVSC athletes, from U10s to U14s, enjoyed numerous podiums. On the first day of racing, Chase Kelly won both of his slaloms, and Turner Estock was second in a race among U10 men.
Garrett Dollahan finished first and second in the events, swapping positions in the races with Topher Davenport. Tyler Thomas finished in third in both races Saturday.
On the women’s side, Annika Johansson was third in the morning run and second in the afternoon. Among U14’s, Allyson Cornelius won both Saturday slaloms. Levyn Thomas was third in the morning race.
Cornelius continued her dominance Sunday, winning both U14 races.
Levyn Thomas was just behind her in the pair of slaloms.
Among U10 girls, Annika Johansson won the afternoon race after finishing second in the morning. Stella Johansson had a third and a second in U12 action.
U10 boys double-winner from Saturday, Chase Kelly, was also victorious on Sunday in both races. Turner Estock took second in the morning.
In the morning it was Garrett Dollahan, Topher Davenport and Tyler Thomas on the podium.
Davenport and Thomas were 1-2 in the afternoon event among U12 boys.
The U16 team competed in Loveland and Steamboat in a qualifier for the junior championships. Due to the timing of the last races, the roster of AVSC athletes who will represent the team at next month’s event was not available.
One common denominator found in age-class and U16 alpine races is the consistently large athlete fields. Does that indicate interest in ski racing is currently growing by leaps and bounds?
Not exactly, according to Darlene Nolting, Rocky Mountain Division Alpine Manager for the USSA.
“The growth (in the region) happened about four or five years ago when RMD expanded the Youth Ski League series,” she said. “It previously had been restricted and athletes were only allowed to race in one or two races, as the field sizes would have been extremely large.”
Nolting said by adding another site to each of the races and allowing teams to field as many athletes as they wanted, the division experienced a 30 percent growth in two years.
“Since that time, the population for the younger ages has stayed pretty constant,” she added.
At present, the U14 age class seems to be drawing the largest fields, with entrants regularly numbering well over 100 per gender.
That isn’t the case, however, when skiers move into the higher divisions.
“We are losing athletes as they get older, though,” Nolting said.
FIS World Ski Championships
Two AVSC alpine athletes are competing this week in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Alice McKennis, who is enjoying a strong comeback this season, will know after Thursday’s training run whether or not she’ll ski in women’s downhill Friday. Coaches will determine who will race after the completion of Thursday’s training run.
Skiing today in super-G on the menacing Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek is Dean Travers, who has been part of AVSC for the past seven years, but is also coached by Jake Zamansky and Thomas Vonn.
Travers, who represents his country of birth, the Cayman Islands, is also slated to compete in the giant slalom on Friday, Feb. 13. His older brother Dow raced for the Cayman Islands in the last FIS Alpine World Championships and two Winter Olympics.
Weekly with Walt
On today’s GrassRoots program “Weekly with Walt,” the current state of snowboarding is explored with AVSC head coach Miah Wheeler, along with Nichole Mason and Bobbo Pettit.
The program airs at 7 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) and is repeated multiple times during the next week. GrassRoots is located at Channel 12 upvalley and channel 82 below Catherine’s Store.
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