Two local teams headed out to Utah this past weekend to compete in one of the biggest events of the year, the Junior Championships. The USSA Marriott Freestyle/Freeskiing Junior Championships pulls in the best USSA athletes from the Rocky and Central Divisions. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) athletes landed huge tricks and had incredible runs at the event.
The weeklong event kicked off with the halfpipe competition last Wednesday and the SSCV men were at it again sweeping the podium. World Cup halfpipe skier Broby Leeds made easy work of the competition and ended in first place. SSCV’s John Leonard, who is now a weekend warrior but has remained to be a dominant skier all season, placed second behind Leeds. In third was Jake Cummings with a technical pipe run. Now that the USSA events are done, Leonard finally unveiled his secret playlist that has been propelling him into the podium spots all season. “I want to give a shout out to STS9 for helping me do so well this season. I have listened to their music at ever competition which has gotten me super pumped to ski,” said Leonard. Felix Coudouy won the J3 category in the pipe competition and Matt P’ng got third in the J3 class.
In slopestyle, Leonard had a huge run with technical tricks helping him win the event. Leonard’s jump run was a right cork 720 to a left 900 to a switch misty 1080. “His run was clean, technical, and blew a lot of people away at this event. It was definitely a run worthy of the championship title,” said SSCV’s freeskiing coach Peter O’Brien. “All of our athletes did well out here in Utah. Paddy Flanagan was one spot out from making finals in slopestyle, which is more than impressive for someone at his young age. Cole Pates also had a fantastic run in the finals and ended in 11th.” On the girl’s side, Kailyn Forsberg headed out to Utah to compete in slopestyle. Forsberg did well in the qualifications placing seventh overall, and placed first among the athletes from the Rocky Mountain division. Most of these athletes will be headed to Copper in early April to compete in the USASA Nationals.
Next up were the freestylers with open moguls on Thursday and Friday and dual moguls on Sunday. On the ladies side SSCV’s Kaitlyn Harrell has been on fire this season at every competition. Harrell recently landed on the podium during a Nor-Am in Val Saint Come. Currently, Harrell is the highest ranked J2 in the nation. So, it comes as no surprise that Harrell placed second overall in the open moguls, and first in her age class. Harrell had the fastest time of the competition by more than two seconds and beat current U.S. Ski Team member Ali Kariotis. SSCV’s Hannah Miles skied well to the finals with a solid 11th place, but had an unfortunate stumble and finished in 16th overall.
On the men’s side, SSCV’s Emerson Smith had an incredible personal best at the national event ending in second overall. “Smith’s cork 7 on the bottom air earned near perfect marks and his turns were sharp from top to bottom,” said SSCV’s freestyle program director John Dowling. Hunter Bailey recovered from a little trouble during training and placed fifth overall. Bailey took two hard crashes in the morning during training but then rallied with a decent ninth place run in the qualifiers. Jack Skidmore had the best skiing and jumping of his season, which earned him a win in the men’s J3 category. “By virtue of winning his age group, Jack will earn entry to the US Teams young guns program,” said Dowling.
Sunday was duals with Harrell and Emerson skiing to the podium again, both placing third. Even with stomach flu Harrell placed third. Miles made her way to eighth in the duals. Harrell and Bailey were recently selected to represent the U.S. at Junior Worlds later this month in Italy.
While the older group was out in Park City, the younger freestyle team headed over to Arapahoe Basin this past weekend to compete in the development series, and qualifier series championships. Outstanding results came from the young up and comers. In the girls J4 category Natalie Berger took second while Maggie Skidmore skied to a respectable fourth for SSCV. All of the SSCV J5 boys skied well with Maddux Rose in second, John Lesuer in third, Nash Lucas in fourth, and Fin Sapp in fifth. Young Jamison Kust had a solid performance in the J6 boy’s category placing first. In the devo series championships, Beck Sapp placed second for the J6 boys followed by Tanner Roberts in third. Among the devo series girls in the J5 category, Emma Reeder had a strong performance and skied to a second place finish followed by Tegan Large in fifth.
Between the freestyle team and the freeride team, local athletes that enjoy flying through the air did exceptional well this past weekend across many disciplines and age classes.