Juniors race well in prestigious Liechtenstein event | VailDaily.com

Juniors race well in prestigious Liechtenstein event

The ski race known as the "7 Nations" took place in Liechtenstein this year, and for an event that welcomes 14- and 15-year-old athletes only, it was a rare and difficult travel opportunity.

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail qualified five ski racers from the U16 squad — Fletcher Holm, Ava Jemison, Nicola Roundtree-Williams, Berit Frischholz and Carissa Cassidy.

Coach Shaun Goodwin traveled with the athletes in his role as a private coach with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail; he said it was a beautiful venue.

"It's kind of tucked back in the end of a valley," Goodwin said. "Even some veteran coaches who travel in Europe quite a bit had never been there, as well, so I think it was a novelty for all of us."

Goodwin's athlete in Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, 15-year-old Nicola Roundtree-Williams, won the giant slalom at the event.

"It's a good validation that she's on track," Goodwin said. "If you look at the development system here, domestically, that's kind of the pinnacle of what they're trying to achieve at the U16 level."

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STARTS WITH REGIONALS

Athletes reach the international level in the 7 Nations race by qualifying through the U.S. races known as the National Performance Series. Athletes reach the National Performance Series by skiing well at U.S. Junior Nationals, which must be reached through skiing well at U.S. Regionals.

This process is upon those athletes now, with regionals coming up. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail U16 coach Sylvan Kaufman said you never know who is going to break out and embark on the path to places like Liechtenstein.

"That's the really cool thing about U16s, just because you're not good today doesn't mean you can't be really good tomorrow," Kaufman said. "It's a fun one to coach, it's cool to see that."

Kaufman said those flickers of greatness aren't necessarily seen in the actual racing at the U16 level.

"We see it daily, in training," Kaufman said.

Ava Jenison, who finished fifth in the slalom at 7 Nations, is an example of an athlete who is one to look for as these athletes attempt to make the U.S. Ski Team in the years to come.

"She really came on strong at the end of last year, and is starting to show some solid progress," he said. "And then she was second in the second run of the slalom (at the 7 Nations race), so she clearly has some speed and she's turning it on."