Senna Leith claims Nor-Am overall title
2016-17 season, at 19 years old
• 4 Nor-Am individual wins
• 5 total Nor-Am podiums
• 1 win at Junior World Championships
• 1 Nor-Am overall season win
• 1 podium on Australian continental cup
VAIL — Coach Jan Klemsa wasn’t necessarily advising Senna Leith to focus on the North America Cup over the World Cup this season. But once the young snowboard cross racer got going, Klemsa was all for the idea, saying an overall win — even at the less-competitive continental cup or Nor-Am level — is a better showcase of skill than a good individual event result at the World Cup level.
“That was his decision, he set that goal in the beginning, we didn’t push him that way,” Klemsa said. “It paid out.”
Leith, now 20, received his trophy last week for the North America Cup overall win, which he earned from results he obtained as a 19-year old over the 2016-17 season. The new level of accomplishment has him thinking about what’s next.
“You have to rethink about what your future goals are, now that you’ve accomplished the goals that you’ve already set for yourself,” Leith said. “It opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and ideas of what’s possible out there, and what you can do, and it’s really exciting.”
For Leith, it felt like going from sixth place overall last year to first place this year happened fast. Klemsa, however, says this season in particular was a long one. Klemsa, Leith’s coach at the International Snowboard Training Center, has seen the young athlete through the ups and downs of competitions over the years, and the injuries that come with them. Looking at this season, he saw a lot of possibility for inconsistency.
“He also got two World Cup starts, so that’s two added races to the season,” Klemsa said. “It’s mostly for experience at this stage of his career, but it’s a long season and he stayed consistent all the way, that’s big.”
Leith also took a detour to enjoy his last opportunity to partake in a Junior World Championships event, heading over to Klinovec, Czech Republic, and coming home with gold in the team event. He described the event as “magical” and a worthwhile deviation from the Nor-Am course.
The goal, for Leith, was not to earn a Nor-Am overall win going into this season. While he’s happy to have it, he recognizes strategically it isn’t much different for him than a second or third place finish overall. As the top three finishers on the Nor-Am overall are guaranteed starts on the World Cup the following season, Leith’s plan was always to head into next season free from the insecurity snowboard cross athletes might face if they start off a World Cup season not riding so well.
Leith describes it as “worrying maybe I won’t get to go to this event or that event,” saying now all he has to focus on is his riding.
“I won’t have to worry about any of the other things,” he said. “It just comes down to what I do when I get in the start gate.”
Leith turned down a few World Cup opportunities this year.
“If I didn’t take those steps, I might not have been in the position I am today where I have more possibilities open for me next year,” he said.
After earning four straight wins in the first four Nor-Am events, Leith switched his goal to an overall title.
“He always sets up reasonable goals,” Klemsa said.
Heading into next year, an Olympic bid doesn’t seem to be too unreasonable of a goal now, Klemsa said.
“I didn’t think two years ago he was thinking about having that opportunity in him,” Klemsa said of Leith. “And all of a sudden he set up his goal, he achieved that goal, and now he has a good shot to make Olympics.”
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