Sarah Morgan, Heidi Booher, Lily Brunelle and coach Mary Rose
Super JNQ, Soldier Hollow, Utah
SVSEF cross country skiers competed at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah, January 18-19, as part of a super qualifier. All five divisions from the west (Rocky Mountain, Pacific Northwest, High Plains, Far West, Intermountain) were represented, and around 750 racers attended; aside from U.S. Nationals, which took place in early January, and Junior Nationals, which happen in March, these are the biggest races in which our comp team athletes compete. Because there is no restriction on entry and field sizes are a bit bigger than those at JNs, this is a good tune-up for these skiers.
It was a successful weekend for SVSEF as a whole, with athletes walking away feeling good about their efforts, kids breaking the top 10, and SVSEF on top of five out of eight podiums for the weekend. “The challenge now is to keep things fresh and help kids who are in top form continue to maintain their fitness and set goals for competitions coming their way,” said coach and cross country program director Rick Kapala. “We are also looking to help kids who are still growing in their ski capacity to see what’s happening around them, and recognize ways to make progress; it comes down to a good attitude and trying hard.”
Circumstances involving weather and course layout made the race weekend especially crazy. Conditions were really variable, with pouring rain on Thursday during course inspection. The hosts put together a new sprint course, with three major hills instead of two. With the stretch into the stadium skiing differently, fitness now really mattered, as did staying smart about how one used their energy; kids who had success did a really good job of applying energy when it mattered, and using it to their tactical advantage.
Friday was a freestyle sprint, and a number of SVSEF athletes won their qualifying race. Lily Brunelle, Scott Schulz and Logan Smith all did so, and also went on to win the overall race, which is pretty unique. The biggest breakthrough came from Lily. Logan and Scott have had good results in skate sprints for awhile (Scott has been on the podium at JNs in the skate sprint, and last year Logan won at JNs for her age group); Lily has come into form at exactly the best time. Winning her prelim for the first time and going out and winning overall, in a race with the entire West in attendance, made for a big day for Lily. Sarah Morgan, who formerly skied at Soldier Hollow, had a really nice charge at the end of the same final, which was good to see given the long road back from leg issues that she’s dealt with. Sammy Smith continued to dominate in the U16 category, finishing in third behind Nina Schamberger (second) and her sister Logan (first). “One of the things that Sammy and Logan bring is a really calm mind when it comes to competition. They are able to focus on the task at hand and go with their strategy, whatever that may be in that race,” noted Kapala. Luci Ludwig had a good day, making it to B finals and posting a fourth place finish for Intermountain and tenth overall. Adam Witowski also dominated with Scott all day (they finished 1-2, with Scott in first and Adam second); both looked very strong. Bjorn Halvorsen has been fighting a virus but had a good qualifier and made it onto the podium in third. “He wasn’t on the radar last year, but he’s grown so much physically, and the training has had some positive effects,” said Kapala. In the younger age groups, Berkeley Canfield threw down and won the U14 girls race.
Logan Smith, Sammy Smith and coach Travis Jones
Logan and Sammy Smith both had another good day, dominating the U16 women’s class and finishing first and second. Their brother, Tucker Smith, did as well, skiing to third for U12s. Teammate Sven Halvorsen was sixth in the same age class. Sven’s brother, Bjorn Halvorsen, ended up seventh in the U16 boys race; he’s on his way and has had a good season so far, he just needs to get healthy again. Berkeley Canfield again led the way for U14s, winning the girls’ race. Teammates Anika Vandenburgh and Eloise Hebert had solid efforts, finishing 16th and 17th for U14s.
The U18 girls race was a good one for SVSEF, with lots of blue suits out in front. For the first two laps (the race was 3x3.3km), Lily Brunelle, Anja Jensen and Sarah Morgan skied clear of the rest of the field. Lily began to apply pressure at the start of the third lap, and she slowly gapped Anja, who slowly gapped Sarah. Lily charged to another victory on the weekend. “When she was younger, she was seen as a talented sprinter; sprinters can access anaerobic levels that distance skiers can’t, but this usually makes the second day of distance racing harder for sprinters. For Lily to go out and dominate in a classic distance race on a course that hard was really impressive,” said Kapala. Anja Jensen skied to a solid second right behind Lily, followed by Sarah Morgan in fourth. Ella Wolter, who took a fall early in the race, made a seamless recovery – Kapala mentioned “grit and toughness” when describing her race – she ended up seventh for U18/20s. Jenna Nurge and Sascha Leidecker both had great races on Saturday; Jenna was 14th overall and Sascha 21st.
Waxing for the U18/20 boys’ race was a bit worrisome due to the temperature, but the course held up pretty nicely because the courses were on man-made snow. Cameron Wolfe, a good skier from Vail, took the win, but SVSEF athletes Scott Schulz and Adam Witkowski hung with him for a bit and ended up second and third. Ted Yewer had his best race of the season, finishing fifth. Eli Eppolito had a good race, as well, coming in seventh. Hayden Halvorsen got caught in a pile up while in a pretty good place early on; with the fall, he fell back into the 20s, but skied a good race and landed back in the teens. Kapala noted that this was a “good, solid effort to reestablish his quest to make the JN team.”
U23 and Junior World Championships
Four SVSEF athletes are competing in Lahti, Finland, for U23 and Junior Worlds. Sydney Palmer-Leger raced on Sunday, January 20, making rounds in the classic sprint in 29th, and finishing 25th overall. Sophia was in the middle of the field. Peter Holmes raced on Monday in the men’s U23 classic sprint; he skied to 20th in qualifiers and 27th overall. In the 1/22 5km freestyle race, Sydney finished 20th. Johnny Hagenbuch also raced Tuesday, in the men’s 10km freestyle race; he was 34th overall in a field of 102 competitors. Peter raced again on 1/23 in the U23 15km freestyle; he finished 48th.
Racing continues today, with a 15/30km classic mass start for Junior Worlds.
Gold Team skier Kevin Bolger completed another weekend of racing with the U.S. Team. In Otepaa, Estonia, Kevin finished 41st in the classic sprint on Saturday, January 19, and 56th in the 15km classic. On January 22, U.S. Ski and Snowboard named 18 athletes to the U.S. Team that will compete in the 2019 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria, to be held February 21-March 3. Kevin was one of the athletes named to the team.
Baldy Banked Slalom, Bald Mtn., Idaho
The seventh annual Baldy Banked Slalom took place this weekend with 133 racers. The BBS is the biggest gathering of snowboarders on Baldy every year, is a ton of fun and a great celebration of snowboard culture.
SVSEF’s Sebastian Lerner won the Next Generation age bracket (U12), and Kiki Pate won for girls. In the 13-18 age group, Jack Verhaeghe claimed victory, as did Madison Hothem. SVSEF coach Rick Millett finished fourth overall for men.
A big thanks to Debbie Bacca, Jon Verhaeghe, Jake and Liz Hothem, Alexia Lerner and everyone who volunteered. Also a big shout out to Riley Berman and Josie Bronwell from the SVSEF alpine program, who helped with all the timing on the day!
Laax Open, Switzerland
Alum Chase Josey was in Laax, Switzerland, last week, for the Laax Open. Josey qualified fourth in his heat on Wednesday, giving him the go-ahead for semifinals on Saturday morning. He scored a 93.50 on his second semifinal run, putting him in second behind Australian Scotty James going into the finals later that day. With two runs in the finals, Josey finished 10th overall.
Photo: Tiffany Curci
Nathan Gowe, overall Wes Barron winner
Wes Barron Memorial, Jackson, Wyoming
Alpine U16 athletes competed in Jackson at the Wes Baron Memorial, which featured three super G races. These were IMD open races and did not count as qualifiers. Jessica Blackburn, Saba Grossman and Anhwei Kirk opened up the weekend with top-10 finishes in the super G on 1/19 (Jessica 5th, Saba 7th, Anhwei 8th). Hannah Ferris and Logan Lindstrom were close behind in 10th and 11th. Nathan Gowe continued a successful competitive season, winning the men’s super G on 1/19. Teammate Colin Hanna finished ninth in the same race. Jessica, Saba and Anhwei stayed consistent into the next day, with Jessica coming in second in the 1/20 super G, Anhwei fourth and Saba seventh. Nathan did, as well – we was the second male finisher on Saturday. In the final super G on Monday, Anhwei stepped up into second, and Saba was fifth. Maya Lightner had a good race, finishing 12th. In the men’s final super G, Nathan rounded out a podium streak in third.
Anhwei Kirk in second
U.S. Development Camp, Europe
Jack Smith has been training and competing with the U.S. Development Team after garnering significant results in super G events earlier this season. He has truly stepped up to the occasion, skiing onto the podium in multiple instances on world class courses throughout the trip. At Selva Val Gardena in Italy, Jack did not finish his first run in the first giant slalom on 1/12, but came in fourth overall the next day in the giant slalom, and was the first 2001 in the national junior race. In Cavalese, Italy, he was second overall in the giant slalom on 1/19, and DNF in the slalom on 1/20 (both were national junior races). Moving onto Cortina d’Ampezzo, Jack finished 17th in the FIS super G race on 1/21 (3rd 2001), DNF the super G on 1/22, and was 13th overall in the FIS slalom on 1/23 (2nd 2001).
FIS University Series, Bridger Bowl, Montana
A few athletes competed at the FIS University events at Bridger Bowl in Montana. University series are high level events, and are selected based on FIS points (a unique approach, as all other series in the U.S. are selected off of USSA points). Bridger Harrison, Bennett Snyder, Cassell Lefevre, Max Noddings, Erin Smith and Merumo Ishimaru competed. Bridger was 39th in the 1/16 giant slalom, and Max was 41st (Bennett and Cassell DNF). For women, Erin Smith was 22nd (Merumo DNF). In the 1/17 giant slalom, Erin was again 22nd, and Merumo 38th. Bridger finished 34th for men and Bennett 49th (Cassell and Max DNF). The women’s slalom on 1/18 was cancelled. Bennett was 39th in the men’s slalom. The men competed again on 1/19 in slalom to replace another race; Bridger and Bennett were 43rd and 44th.
Athletes inspect the course at Red Mountain. Photo by Conor Davis.
Athletes competed at both Red Mountain and Snowbird as part of the IFSA junior event series. Five athletes traveled to Snowbird and seven to Red Mountain. At Red Mountain, the athletes skied really well, but it was a tough venue and only three made it into finals after qualification runs (athletes move on if they’re in the top 50% +1). Ethan Marx and Max Moss were tied for sixth place going into finals. In finals, Max broke his ski, and Ethan got lost in the fog of the course. Neither athlete skied the lines they’d inspected; despite this, Ethan still ended up in ninth place, and Max in 23rd. Will Price was also affected by the fog in his final run; he finished in 19th out of 49 athletes. The other athletes skied well but did not make finals. “I was really impressed by Mikey Ninnini, who is our team cowboy from Kimberly,” said head coach Conor Davis. “He really stepped up and skied a challenging venue for his first competition, especially given he is rather new to skiing.” Sunny Pratt was the only girl on the trip; she fell and had a technical disqualification due to gear loss.
The competition at Snowbird was lottery-based and was hard to get into. Paris Pratt had prequalified for the event based on previous results. Five SVSEF athletes in total competed. The weather played a factor, with snowfall accumulating at ~5″ per hour. Paris Pratt finished ninth and Molly Kucher 12th for girls; both showed off the skills they’ve learned over the years with SVSEF and Sun Valley Co (both were on the Big Mountain team last year). Toby Rafford demonstrated solid mogul abilities, harkening back to his days on the SVSEF freestyle team. He had a great run and finished 21st overall in the 15-18 age category; a good result, especially given he is only 15. Owen Miller, skiing in one of his first real comps, was really assertive; he knew what he was doing and showed some great athletic ability, finishing 50th. Maille Dorland just missed finals, even though she was in ninth place with a hard cut to the field. She had a huge smile on her face at the end of her run.
Big Mountain athletes depart today for more competition, with 19 headed to Snowbird and three to Jackson.
SVSEF freestyle athletes competed at Snowbowl in Montana, January 19-20. The event featured one two-run single comp on Saturday, followed by a one-run single event on Sunday, as well as duals. Tillie Babcock had an outstanding weekend, taking the win for girls as a F13 in all three events. Ellen Shandro was seventh and Presly Watson 10th (in her first-ever competition) on Saturday. Briggs Farelli won his age group (M13) on Saturday, while teammate Nick Rubenstein won the same age group in the singles event on Sunday. Will Hausmann was second for M11 in both singles events. Erik Babcock broke the top 10 for boys overall on Saturday, finishing sixth (third in his age group). In duals, Tillie again took first for girls, while teammate Ellen Shandro finished seventh overall.