Big medal haul for Aspen freestylers at Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club freestyle skiers earned 17 medals – nine of them gold – at the USSA Freestyle Junior Olympics at Steamboat earlier this month.Club skiers competed in halfpipe, slopestyle, moguls, aerials and dual moguls at the March 5-10 contest, which featured the top junior freestyle skiers from around the country.Older, experienced club skiers Whitney Wickes and Taylor Seaton finished on top for their age classes, but it was a pair of talented 12 year-olds – Ali Kariotis and Torin Yater-Wallace – who were the talk among club coaches.Kariotis continued her streak of overcoming older rivals with an impressive seventh-place overall result in Wednesday’s girls halfpipe competition. Her run not only earned her the gold medal for her J4 age class, but she bested all but one of the J3 skiers competing and two J2 skiers. “It was a smooth run capped off by a nice 360. Not bad considering halfpipe isn’t her strongest event,” said Eric “Doughboy” Knight, AVSC’s freestyle director, in a club news release. “Ali’s got a lot of variety in her tricks and she’s willing to try new things. There’s more to come from her,” added coach Elana Chase.Seaton threw down what Chase described as “the best USSA run I’ve ever seen,” dropping into the pipe switch (backward) and finishing with back-to-back 900s in opposite directions.Seaton finished second overall, but won the gold for his J1 age class. The judges’ decision created some controversy among spectators, competitors and coaches. Jack Sullan took the silver among the J1s with a run that was good for seventh overall. “Jack had a tough time getting the pipe dialed in because he’s so used to how good his home pipe at Snowmass is,” Chase said. “His practice runs weren’t great, but he pulled it all together in competition.” Walter Wood finished sixth overall and fourth in his J2 age class. For Yater-Wallace, it was his day to shine in the J4 age class. The local spun right past all his 11- and 12-year-old rivals and all but one J3 skier with a gold medal run beginning with an impressive 900 and featuring back-to-back off-axis 540s in opposite directions. “He left all the other J4s in the dust,” Chase said. Ten-year-old Jack Kariotis qualified as an alternate to the team and made the most of his chance by claiming the silver medal for his J5 age class. “Jack is a great kid who’s determined to compete,” Chase said.Wickes completed a remarkable return to the top – following two season-ending injuries – with a slopestyle gold medal for the J1s on Thursday. Wickes got top marks from the judges on her smooth rail slides to finish second overall. Her run also showcased a big truck driver 540 off the course’s final jump. “She’s back and jumping better than I’ve ever seen,” Chase said.A change of discipline didn’t change anything in the J4 standings, as Ali Kariotis paced her age group in slopestyle. Her eighth-place overall finish earned her another gold medal for her age class.”She just learned how to slide boxes the day before the competition,” Knight said.Kariotis threw a big, clean 360, followed by a double twist spread off the bottom jump to move past her age class rivals.Yater-Wallace matched the effort on the men’s side. The 12 year-old beat all the J4s and all the J3s.Yater-Wallace finished 18th out of a field of the top 73 skiers in the country. “Despite his age, Torin has been with AVSC for a while and all the experience he’s gained from competing in moguls was on display today,” Chase said. “He understands how to take off, where to look when he spins and where to put his arms for the best rotation. He’s got the skills and he’s pretty strong for a little guy.” Wood claimed his first medal in slopestyle with a bronze medal for the J2 age class.Seventy-two of the top-ranked moguls skiers ages 18 and under faced off in Friday’s moguls competition. “The field was simply based on who the best skiers were – there were no age class allotments,” Knight said. Kariotis continued to impress with a run that included a spread eagle and a 360 on the course’s two jumps.”She was sitting second overall when she completed her first run,” Knight said. “We were waiting to see if her score was enough to get her into finals and she qualified in 14th place. She laid down the same run in the finals, keeping it simple and upping her speed by two seconds over her first run.” The result was another age class gold medal and a ninth-place finish, besting all the J4s, J3s and all but five J1 skiers.AVSC’s J4 skiers swept the podium in Saturday’s aerials competition as Kariotis, Hallie Stuart and Annabelle Wilcox completed a podium sweep. With more than 100 male and female competitors showing up, it was no easy task. Stuart’s silver medal run featured a spread and double spread, and Wilcox showed the judges a spread and a twister-spread to earn the bronze. Teammate Simone Augspurger finished in fourth place for her J3 age class. “They totally stomped all their landings, and Hallie, Annabelle and Simone jumped as well as we’ve seen them jump all season,” Chase said. The top boys finisher was 13 year-old Kyler Sciarrone, whose sixth-place result for his age class impressed club coaches.Ali Kariotis capped off her impressive week with a strong showing in Sunday’s dual moguls.She dispatched a skier four years older than her in the first round before falling to 18 year-old Whitney Henceroth in the semifinals. Henceroth was the defending champion and the third overall seed in the field.”Ali gave her all she could handle and it was the match-up of the day,” Knight said. “Whitney figured she could cruise and back off her difficulty, but she was battling for her life by the end of the run.”Kariotis turned on her speed after a slight bobble off the first jump and pushed Henceroth all the way to the finish.”Ali was leading but fell with only three moguls to go,” Knight said. “Henceroth’s coach even said she dodged a bullet. Ali just about stole it from her.”At the close of the competition, Kariotis added one more medal to her trove of hardware: the overall Junior Olympic gold medal for the top overall results in halfpipe, aerials and moguls, regardless of age class.”What a great way to finish the season,” Knight said. “I was proud of Ali and all of our athletes. We had a lot of first-timers this year and they weren’t fazed by the magnitude of the competition. They kept their composure and stepped up when they needed to and the results speak for themselves.”
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.