35 Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Alpine racers make U16 Junior Championships
20 of 41 total boys at Rocky/Central champs will represent local club
VAIL — With 35 athletes already qualified for the U16 Rocky/Central Junior Championships, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail will be the best-represented organization by far at the annual event.
Taking place in Winter Park this year, the Rocky/Central Junior Championships bring together Alpine ski racers from across the region, which spans from Arizona to Ohio. Qualifying for the event is a benchmark of the depth of a program, and with 20 of the 41 total boys qualified coming from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, and 15 of the 45 total girls, the local club’s depth among 14- and 15-year-old (U16) athletes is second to none in the region.
In addition to attracting a lot of kids, the program is also able to develop those kids into talented ski racers in high percentages.
“Only a few of our kids didn’t qualify (for junior championships),” said Alpine U16 Head Coach Urska Rabic-Bevc. “A majority of the Ski Club Vail athletes made it.”
The final junior championship qualifying event took place over the weekend in Steamboat, where Ski & Snowboard Club Vail swept the podium in the slalom.
U16 racers Tianna Bruce, Kaitlin Keane and Zoie Palmer went 1-2-3, respectively.
“It was a really good group success heading into the championships,” Rabic-Bevc said.
The Junior Championships take place March 4-10.
Rabic-Bevc had just returned home from her native Slovenia when the Sync Cup junior championship qualifying event was getting underway in Steamboat Springs.
She was in Slovenia as a liaison of sorts for the American U16 racers who had qualified for the Pokal Loka, an international race open to a select few Americans who just missed the exclusive OPA Cup in Switzerland but are attracting the attention of coaches nonetheless, who want to see how these young ski racers compete on the international stage.
The goal was “to create an environment that was team-orientated, positive and fun,” said Kathy Okoniewski, another coach who accompanied Rabic-Bevc, told the U.S. Ski Team.
Kjersti Moritz, of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, qualified for the Pokal Loka races and notched a top-10 finish in the slalom on Feb. 10, an impressive result for a 14-year-old.
“That’s pretty big of a deal because she is a first-year U16, so she has another year to go there,” Rabic-Bevc said.
Kjersti Moritz’s twin sister, Liv Moritz, then finished fourth in the slalom in Steamboat on Sunday, one of six girls in the top seven.
“The team is skiing really well heading into the championships, so we’re excited about our chances,” Rabic-Bevc said.
The graduates of Vail Mountain School’s class of 2019 will be off to far-flung destinations next fall, set to enter college in one of 16 different states or explore the world on a gap year. One grad is even attending college in Canada.