AVSC skier makes history at nationals
Glenn Engelman saved his best for last once again at the U.S. National Championships in Park City, Utah, last weekend, March 24-26. The 17-year-old Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club (AVSC) moguls specialist went toe to toe with top U.S. freestylers, including most of the World Champion U.S. Freestyle Team, and had some surprising results in Saturday’s dual moguls competition.Engelman qualified for nationals as the top discretionary pick for the Rocky Mountain Division based on his total points for the season. He and the rest of the AVSC qualifiers, including Rachel Weitzenkorn, Kaitlin Roos, Andrew Wickes and Sam Ferguson, had the advantage of training and skiing on the Park City competition venues all week, having just finished the Junior Olympics a few days prior.Engelman was tapped to start 33rd and only the top 16 advanced to compete head to head. Engelman and his coaches watched as several competitors blew up by trying to do too much in order to qualify.”We talked Glenn into backing off his speed to about 90 percent while still giving us his full effort,” said AVSC freestyle program director Eric “Doughboy” Knight. The strategy paid off as Engelman threw down a flawless run to finish 11th and qualify for the next round.
Engelman faced the sixth-place qualifier, U.S. Freestyle Team member Michael Morse, who competed in the World Cup finals this season. In one of the most exciting match-ups of the day, the upstart Engelman took on Morse, matching his speed turn for turn through the middle of the course.”After the bottom air Glenn started pulling away for the win as Morse lost his form and barely hung on to cross the finish line,” said Knight. “There are only 12 men on the U.S. Freestyle Moguls Team – it’s a very select group of the very best. And it was an awesome upset considering how good these guys are. We were excited about Glenn’s chances because he was coming in under the radar – nobody knew about him and how capable he is.”The win put Engelman in the top-eight where he faced 2003 Overall World Cup Champion and 2004 U.S. Champion Travis Cabral. “Travis is the fastest moguls skier the U.S. has,” said Knight. “Glenn gave it everything he had and was hanging with Travis until about halfway down the course. Glenn started to lose control and wisely put on the brakes to save himself.”Engelman finished the competition in a tie for fifth, the best moguls finish ever for an AVSC freestyle athlete. Cabral wound up winning the silver medal.After overhearing that one of the female qualifiers would not be competing in Saturday’s dual moguls event, the AVSC coaches immediately phoned Kaitlin Roos and her parents letting her know she was in. The AVSC skier and her family jumped in the car on Friday at 4 a.m. to make it to the venue in time to train for a couple of hours prior to the event the following day.
On Saturday, “she was laying down the best run of the year for her with her best turns and her best top air,” said Knight. “She was on her way to qualifying in the top 16 when she threw a big 360 off the bottom air and couldn’t quite hang on to the landing.” Roos finished 44th overall for the day.Rachel Weitzenkorn was the only AVSC athlete to return to the U.S. Nationals. She came into the moguls event with high hopes but was stymied by the course conditions. “She drew the seventh starting position and no one had skied her side of the course,” said Knight. She faltered on the untracked, new snow surface and despite a protest and a provisional re-run, she was unable to put forth her best and wound up finishing 45th.”It was tough luck for her, she had a hot run going but came into the bottom jump a little too fast,” said Knight. Despite two disappointing results, both girls gave it their all at the biggest event of the year.Engelman also competed in Thursday’s single moguls event for the AVSC men, coming into the event ranked 45th out of the 47 qualified skiers. “Glenn had an excellent run going despite a couple of form breaks – he just skied right through his mistakes and kept on going,” said Knight. The judges liked what they saw and despite the errors, Engelman finished 22nd overall.”Not bad considering he was going up against superstars like Toby Dawson and Nate Roberts,” said Knight.
Sam Ferguson and Andrew Wickes also stepped up when facing 21 of the top aerialists in Friday’s aerials competition. Fifteen-year-old Ferguson wowed the judges with his new-school skills, throwing a perfect corked 7 grab (off-axis 720 with a grab) and corked 7 cross (off-axis 720 with crossed skis) off the huge 14-meter jump. “He caught big air, executed his tricks to near perfection and stomped his landings,” said Knight. Ferguson finished 13th overall and was the second-highest finisher out of all the new-school aerialists.”Most of guys out there were throwing classic tricks,” said Knight. For instance, Joe Pack, the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist, threw a back full-full-full (triple backflip with three twists) to finish third.Seventeen-year-old Andrew Wickes cracked the top 20 by throwing a switch corked 5 grab (backwards takeoff, off-axis with one-and-a-half rotations and a grab) and a corked 7 grab. “Andrew got good execution scores and one judge gave him a perfect landing score,” said Knight. Wickes finished 20th overall based on the combined results from both jumps.”This was the largest group of AVSC skiers ever to make it to nationals and each of them will be invited to compete in U.S. Freestyle Team selection events,” Knight noted.Highlights from the event will be broadcast on OLN on April 4.
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