Ski & Snowboard Club Vail takes 18 of 24 podiums at U14 regional championships
In skiing, the so-called “Golden Years” of athlete development are said to occur at ages 9-13.
With that in mind, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail placed some of its top coaches within the U14-and-younger programs for the 2018-19 season.
Named Alpine Coach of the Year by U.S. Ski & Snowboarding in 2016, Rob Worell was among the coaches assigned to oversee the younger ranks. After watching a total of 36 athletes compete at the U14 Rocky/Central Alpine Championships, more than any other club in the region, Worell is feeling good about the club’s investment.
“It really was apparent at the championships (which wrapped up in Steamboat on Sunday),” Worell said. “We had kids starting in the back in tough positions and moving way up to the front.”
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail led the championship with 18 of 24 possible podiums.
“That’s pretty good domination, no matter how you slice those numbers in ski racing,” Worell said.
With those results, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail qualified six of 10 total American athletes to the prestigious CanAm event, which features the top U14 racers from the U.S. and Canada and is set to take place at Mt. Tremblant in Quebec March 28-31. The club also advanced two athletes, Lauren Haerter and Sydney Birtwhistle, who will race up as U14s at the U16 national championship in Breckenridge, a rare accomplishment for athletes of their age group.
“The big thing with any sport, when you learn the basic fundamentals young, that doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to have success later in that sport, it means that the kids are in a position to use their athleticism if they make that next step,” Worell said.
MAJORITY OF TOP-10S
In the girls’ super G, which kicked off the U14 championship on Thursday, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail claimed seven top-10 finishes, including spots one through six. Sydney Birtwhistle skied away with the win, joined on the podium by Sophie Stocker in second and Lauren Haerter in third. They were followed by Molly Roberts, Frankie Marston, Avery Shu and Kyleena Lathram in the top 10. In the boys’ super G, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail claimed six top-10 finishes, including a second-place result for Everett Dooley. Meanwhile, Hunter Salani, Mason Renick, Luke Arrigoni and William Zurbay also claimed top 10s in that event.
The championship continued with a pair of single-run giant slaloms for each gender. Overall, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail claimed 20 of 40 top-10 finishes, more than any other club. Victories for the club included Kai Ogawa (times two), Birtwhistle and Haerter. Podiums included Stocker, Salani, Renick and Marston.
The slalom similarly consisted of a pair of single-run races for each gender. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail claimed 24 of 40 top-10 finishes in those races. Sawyer Reed recorded a victory for the club and Haerter and Stocker also made the podium.
Going one level younger, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s U12 program touched down for its annual Rocky Mountain Division Championship at Powderhorn over the weekend. The championship consisted of a pair of slalom and a pair of giant slalom races for each gender.
Overall in the giant slalom, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail earned 20 of 40 total top-10 results, more than any other club.
Coach Martin Bell, who was also sought out to enhance the younger ranks at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail this season, said the strong results achieved in Powderhorn were a direct result of the kids learning the techniques that will serve them well as skiers in general, not just ski racers.
“We do lots of freeskiing, generally three times per week,” Bell said. “And with the powder we’ve had recently, there’s been times where the conditions have dictated more freeskiing.”
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail also won the team event at the U12 division championship, led by Jackson Leever for the boys and Taylor Hale for the girls. Leever and Hale both earned wins in giant slalom competition. They were joined by Tim Arrigoni, Solveig Moritz, Katie McDonald on the podium in the GS.
“The tactics, the line that you take around the gates, that’s, I think at this stage, a secondary thing to the technique,” Bell said. “The results we saw, I would say, were secondary to the technique.”
In slalom racing, Hale struck again with a pair of wins. She was joined on the podium in those events by McDonald and Moritz. In the boys’ slalom, Leever picked up another win, as well as a second-place finish, to wrap up the series.
“You can find videos of Marcel Hirscher when he was 13, in a lot of the movements you recognize that it’s the same skier we see on the World Cup now,” Bell said. “A lot of the patterns and the movements and the habits, are learned during those Golden Years, as we call them.”