Local earns spot on U.S. Ski Team | AspenTimes.com

Local earns spot on U.S. Ski Team

Snowmass Village ski racer Elizabeth Woods had to hear it to believe it. After a breakthrough season on the NorAm Cup, which included two top-five finishes and another top-10, Woods knew she was in contention for a spot on the U.S. Ski Team.She finished the season fifth in the world in super G among juniors her age, and had the best super G finish by an American racer at the Alpine Junior World Championships in Quebec in early March. She also consistently beat members of both the Canadian and American national teams in NorAms. Woods’ head coach at Crested Butte Academy, Rob Worrell, told her the decision for U.S. Ski Team officials would be a “no-brainer.” “But I didn’t believe it until they came out with the list that said you’re on the U.S. Ski Team,” said the 17-year-old Woods, who has trained under the alpine staff at CBA the past five years. “I got the call on Friday. It was really exciting. It took a little while for it to sink in.”Woods made the ski team’s development squad, which means she’ll continue to race at the NorAm level next season with the incentive to earn World Cup starts depending on how she performs. She recently deferred her freshman year at the University of Denver so she can focus solely on skiing next season.At the moment, Woods’ main objective is to get off crutches. She had minor cleanup surgery on one of her knees two weeks ago after she twisted it awkwardly in her final race of the season, an FIS race at Aspen.Woods had surgery on the same knee last May to repair a torn meniscus. When she went under the knife for the second time, doctors discovered she had partially torn the meniscus again and that there was a dime-sized piece of cartilage missing from her femur. “I think it was compounded,” Woods said. “I had a bunch of other almost knee injuries throughout the year, and then I ended up not being able to ski, because it really got swollen and I was in so much pain.”Despite facing six more weeks on crutches, followed by a grueling rehabilitation regimen, Woods remains optimistic. She came back stronger than before after her surgery last season, she said.”It was the first summer where I didn’t take a month and go ski,” she said. “I really worked on conditioning last summer and did a ton of weightlifting and rehab, and I didn’t think about skiing. I plan on doing the same again this summer.” At the start of this past season, Woods’ skiing wasn’t drawing the stares of national team coaches.She finished no higher than 14th in her first four NorAm starts in December, before dropping down a level to compete in 10 FIS races, where she had one podium finish and three top-five finishes. In early February, Worrell decided it was time for his pupil to make the jump back to the NorAm level. He didn’t foresee, however, what happened next.Woods finished ninth at a super G in Apex, British Columbia, on Feb. 12, then came back with a fifth-place finish the next day. She was fifth in super G again just three days later at a NorAm stop in Big Mountain, Mont.”The main reason she went up there [to Canada and Montana] was just to learn their speed venues and learn the courses and just kind of get her feet wet,” Worrell told The Aspen Times in February. “She went in with low expectations at these events and really turned it on. I thought next year she’d have more of a chance to make that team.”With her two top five finishes, Woods was beating the likes of U.S. Ski Team members Julia Littman, Chelsea Marshall and Jonna Mendes. Mendes, a 10-year veteran, recently retired from the team. U.S. Ski Team coaches have pegged Littman and Marshall as future World Cup stars.Now Woods is on that same list.”I’m not really sure what happened. It really just started to click,” Woods said. “I’ve always done really well skiing in training and I’ve never made it click in a race. Then all of a sudden, I got ninth, and it was amazing because I didn’t even think I had skied that well. I just kept going out there, and even though I may not have been skiing my best, I was going for it more than I ever have before.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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