Local snowboarders compete at World Rookie Tour finals in Austria
EAGLE COUNTY — With nationals underway as the World Rookie Tour came to a close this month, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Chris Laske had an easy choice to make.
“Some of the kids were like — ‘Really, we’re going to miss nationals?’” Laske said. “I had to say ‘this is the next level, if you compete here and do well, you’re competing at the world level, not just the national level.’”
The World Rookie Tour is tough to qualify for, and difficult for Americans to make it to even if they do qualify. With finals taking place in Austria, the time and expense of travel complicates things for kids who may not yet have traveled much as competitive snowboarders.
One of the qualifying events was held at Keystone, which was a relief for local kids as the nearby halfpipe and slopestyle venue was familiar territory for them. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail qualified six athletes for the World Rookie Tour this season, although not all of them were able to make it to Austria due to travel complications. Four athletes ended up making finals — Jack Coyne and Hayden Tyler in halfpipe; Dylan Okurowski and David Retzlaff in slopestyle.
“Just the experience alone was next level for them,” Laske said. “But to have our whole team end up in the upper third of the competition was huge.”
BIGGEST YOUTH SERIES
The World Rookie Tour is the largest and most competitive youth snowboard series in the world, reserved exclusively for athletes younger than 18 years old. While all of the athletes compete against each other under a uniform judging criteria, final results are broken up into two divisions — Rookies and Groms.
“Typically when you have a contest, you have a 10- to 11-year-old division, a 12- to 13-year-old division, a 14- to 15-year-old division and so on,” Laske said. “In the World Rookie Tour, everyone who was 14 and under is ranked the same. The younger guys are at a big disadvantage, because a run that would normally score high against athletes their same age is now scored against the entire division.”
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete Jack Coyne, 15, is at the older end of the Groms division, and won the qualifier to secure his trip to Austria. His teammate, Hayden Tyler, was able to qualify at only 10 years old.
“I was just super stoked Hayden got the invite, I didn’t expect him to excel in the contest against kids so much older,” Laske said. “When he made finals, I was blown away. What an amazing athlete.”
COYNE 2ND AMONG GROMS
Coyne finished second in the Groms division, ninth overall, and Tyler finished sixth in the Groms division, 16th overall. For slopestyle, Okurowski finished 20th overall and Retzlaff 25th overall. Coyne was the top finishing American in the Groms division for halfpipe.
“It was a shorter pipe than I was used to, I only got three hits in it,” Coyne said.
His run — a frontside 900, followed by a backside 540, followed by an inverted 720 — was actually the same run as Grom winner Joonsik Lee, of Korea.
“He just went a little bigger than me,” Coyne said.
“The whole experience was awesome,” Coyne added. “I had never been to Europe before so it was really cool to see. We flew into Munich, traveled around Munich a bit, then drove into Austria. It was pretty sweet.”
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