Throm, AVSC skiers dominate J3 JO downhill |

Throm, AVSC skiers dominate J3 JO downhill

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Randy Wagner/SharpShooter ImagingThe Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club's Benjamin Throm speeds to a victory in Tuesday's J3 Rocky/Central Junior Olympics at Buttermilk.

ASPEN – Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club alpine coach Pat Callahan admitted he was feeling anxious Tuesday.

“Just because of the high expectations on our team and because of the way things can go wrong,” Callahan said of the Rocky/Central J3 Junior Olympics downhill at Buttermilk. “I figured one of our guys deserved to win. I was just crossing my fingers and hoping that would happen.”

Callahan can breathe easy now.

There’s no place like home.

Club athlete Benjamin Throm attacked Tiehack’s familiar Racer’s Edge course, securing victory with a time of

1 minute 28 seconds. Some familiar faces joined him on the podium and in the top 10; teammates Xon Baker (1:28.88) and Travis Lundin (1:29.15) finished second and third, while Colby Lane (1:29.56) was fifth and Dean Travers (1:30.43) wound up eighth.

“What a great day,” Callahan said. “They’re an amazing group. They grew up together and have raced each other. There’s an old phrase: ‘Here’s the keys to the Ferrari. Don’t crash it.’ Well, I constantly stand back and watch them do things, get faster … and push each other until they become the best.”

Jili Jennerjahn (Taos, N.M.) was best among the girls Tuesday, crossing the finish in 1:31.47. Team Breckenridge’s Kaitlynn Sockett (1:32.01) and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s Grace Merriman (1:32.45) finished second and third.

Throm, Lane, Lundin, Travers and Andrew Hancock secured the top five qualifying spots for this week’s races – a feat no single club had ever accomplished, according to Rocky Mountain Division Competition Manager Darlene Nolting – by virtue of some impressive results at a late-February qualifier in Winter Park.

That depth and talent was on full display Tuesday.

“Normally, every year I’ve coached here for the last 20 years, there’s one top guy you expect to win. This year, we’re just juggling day to day,” Callahan said. “Benjamin was so aggressive when he came down – more than anyone else. He was looking for speed and hammering down the course. He had the most air coming off of the Waterfall jump.”

Throm, second in Monday’s training run, opted to choose a higher Bib number (22) and later start time Tuesday.

“The snow in the morning slows the course, so the more people that go, the faster and faster the course gets,” the Snowmass Villager said. “It was perfect.”

So was Throm’s skiing – aside from one minor miscue; after cleanly negotiating the course’s top flats and Waterfall jump, he said he took a little too low of a line on a rolling middle section.

Luckily, the large space between gates allowed him to right himself and finish strong.

“That bottom section is where I’ve been best all week,” Throm said. “I was psyched. I thought Travis would’ve been first.”

Lundin finished first in Monday’s training – an impressive feat considering his recent bout with pneumonia.

“I was off skis for 10 days,” Lundin said. “I got just one day of training in before race day.”

He made it count, and Tuesday completed what he said was a nearly flawless run.

“I felt like I nailed everything. I had a really good run,” he said. “We all wanted to win, but it’s cool that Aspen swept the podium. … For Ben to edge me, it’s good. I’m glad it was a friend.”

Added Callahan: “I told them in training not to get complacent – they know this hill, but everyone else will always get better on it. … They didn’t. And they would’ve won on any hill in the country.”

AVSC athletes and coaches are hoping Tuesday’s effort is a sign of things to come. The action continues at Buttermilk with the super G today, the boys giant slalom on Thursday, girls GS on Friday and slalom Saturday.

“This should give us confidence,” Throm said.