AVSC sending 17 freestylers to Junior Olympics
In two recent moguls competitions at Aspen Highlands, 18-year-old local Zac Giammarrusco seamlessly merged “old school” bumps skiing with a “new school” trick, and charmed judges in the process.Giammarrucso’s off-axis “truck driver” – a full 360 rotation while grabbing both ski tips – is so new, in fact, that the trick has yet to make an appearance at the World Cup level. Winter X Games star Simon Dumont stomps the move in the halfpipe, and a number of other skiers are capable of doing it in slopestyle.”But I’ve never seen anyone do it in moguls,” said Eric “Doughboy” Knight, the freestyle director at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. “The judges just ate it up.”The trick netted near-perfect scores for Giammarrusco on each run, and propelled him to an 11th-place finish on Saturday, Feb. 18, followed by a 10th-place finish the following day.The showing also locked up a spot in the upcoming men’s moguls competition at the Freestyle Junior Olympics in Park City, Utah, later this month. Giammarrusco, a J1 who is the top-ranked aerialist in the Rocky Mountain Division, has also qualified to compete in halfpipe, slopestyle and aerials.Speaking of truck drivers, AVSC may need one to get all of its freestyle athletes to Park City. The club has 17 skiers who qualified in at least one discipline for the event, which begins March 14 with slopestyle and wraps up March 18 with moguls.Knight expects at least 14 to make the trip. Sixteen-year-old aerialist David Hach was recently injured, and the brother-sister duo of Andrew and Whitney Wickes may not compete because of other commitments.”It’s going to be great experience,” Knight said. “It’s really the only time of the year that the kids get to go to a competition and match their skills against kids from throughout the entire country. It’s the best of the best.”Only the top 50 junior athletes in each discipline are invited to compete. After taking 18 skiers last year, Knight expects AVSC will again have one of the biggest teams.”It’s huge for some of the events,” he said. “We’ll have as many as seven of the top fifty kids in the country.”AVSC had fewer athletes selected to compete in moguls than any other discipline, but the four athletes who will be heading to Utah are some of the most talented in the region.J1 moguls specialists Rachel Weitzenkorn and Glenn Engelman have also been selected to compete at the U.S. Freestyle Championships in Killington, Vt., which begins March 21.The duo turned in solid results at the recent RMD competition at Highlands. Weitzenkorn was fifth Saturday and 10th Sunday amongst a field of 34 and Engelman finished fifth out of 63 skiers on both days of competition.”Glenn had some solid, clean runs featuring his patented backflip,” said Knight. “He sat in third after the first run on Saturday, but couldn’t quite close the deal for the win.”Fellow Junior Olympics qualifier Julianne Davis also had a strong weekend, moving up from 25th on Saturday to 17th on Sunday.The other AVSC athletes to compete in moguls at the recent competition at home were Reid Whitney, Kyle Lusk, Nathaniel Chellel and 13-year-old Nick Erickson, who placed 48th on Saturday and 47th on Sunday. Erickson has qualified for JO’s in aerials, as well as Chellel, who is the second-ranked jumper in the RMD behind Giammarrusco.In slopestyle and halfpipe, AVSC qualified a combined 11 athletes for the Junior Olympics in at least one of the two disciplines.Leading that group is 15-year-old Charlie Lasser, who has dominated in RMD competitions this winter, and has also held his own against top-level pros in events like the Aspen/Snowmass Open.”He’s an unrecognized, hungry competitor,” said Geoff Stump, Lasser’s coach at AVSC. “Charlie’s strength allows him to play with the big boys and pull out landings where others wouldn’t.”Another athlete who Stump has been stumping for is 16-year-old Dan Armbruster of Glenwood Springs. Armbruster has made an unheard-of move up the USSA rankings this season, starting in dead last before qualifying for Junior Olympics last month.”Dan has worked hard all season long and surprised all of us with the tremendous strides he’s taken,” Stump said. “It’s great to have a Glenwood athlete travel with us to Park City.” Armbruster was one of six AVSC skiers to crack the top 10 in an RMD halfpipe competition held on President’s Day. He was ninth in the morning competition and sixth in the afternoon. The teammates who will be joining Armbruster in Park City also had strong showings. Matt Walker, 18, was third in the morning. Travis Van Domelen, 15, was fifth in the morning and third in the afternoon. Greg Ross, 15, turned in a fourth and an eighth-place finish. Thirteen-year-old Brandon Claybaugh moved up from 13th in morning to fourth place in the afternoon session. And Jack Sullan,15, finished 10th in the morning. Stump said he likes his team’s chances in Park City.”We’ll have 10 percent of the entire halfpipe field representing AVSC,” he said. “We could make some noise this year.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite being a big star, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen has frequently connected with the young AVSC athletes while training at Aspen Highlands over the years.