Vail freeski team earns most podium spots at junior nationals
Fifty of the top junior skiers in halfpipe, slopestyle, big air and moguls were invited to compete in the USSA juniors national championships in Park City, Utah.
It was a long week with many hours spent in the hot sun in Park City.
“Coach Dave Zweig and I tried to help our athletes manage their energy, hydration, sleep and not overtrain for these comps,” Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Elana Chase said.
The strategy worked, as several podiums were gained at the end of each competition day.
“We were hoping for some decent results, since we have a young team with us this year,” Chase said. “When we picked our heads up after the grind of each day there were several Vail athletes names being called out. It was a pleasant surprise.”
Top results included Ava Surridge and Regan Wallis winning gold in the combined results for halfpipe, slopestyle and big air.
At the start of the week and leading the charge was team captain Emerson Lawton, a senior at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. Emerson was the top finisher in slopestyle, earning silver in his age class with back-to-back double inverted tricks, spinning both left and right in a showcase of variety.
“Also our youngest athlete, Matt LaBaugh, who is also one of the younger competitors in the slopestyle competition, helped the Vail team’s momentum by snagging a bronze in his age class and missing the overall finals by one slot,” Chase said.
On the girls side of slopestyle, Vail’s female team was small, with only one skier. But that skier — Ava Surridge — was able to snatch up her first major slopestyle podium with a gold medallion in her age class and bronze for the overall.
“Her signature rodeo 540 with a Japan grab really carried her score,” said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Dave Zweig.
Back to the halfpipe, Vail had several top results, as well.
Reagan Wallis and Jack Ganley qualified in the top 10 to compete in finals. Reagan Wallis took home the bronze for his unique run of switch tricks, leading it off with a no spin “air to switch” into a right-spinning switch 720, followed by a left spinning 900, and right-spinning 720, a left-spinning switch 720 and a right-spinning 720.
Jack Ganley also nabbed a silver in his age group with his best halfpipe competition run to date.
Again, not to be overlooked, Ski Club Vail’s one-woman team of Ava Surridge qualified in second overall and ended sixth overall and fourth in her age class.
In the big air event, Ski Club Vail had four athletes qualify for the finals: Emerson Lawton, Lachlin Crick, Jack Ganley and Ava Surridge.
Surridge clinched the gold for both the overall and her age class, performing a huge rodeo 540 with a Japan grab.
Jack Ganley learned a few new tricks for the big air competition, including a double flat-spin 720, but it wasn’t quite enough for the podium in his first go around.
However, Lachlin Crick received the bronze in that same age class with his signature jump called the double flat 720.
“He went huge and stomped the landing clean,” Zweig said.
Emerson Lawton received a silver medal in his age class with another a massive right-spinning double cork 1080. The trick placed his fifth overall after he failed to land a similar trick with an additional spin.
“If Emerson was able to land his double cork 1440 on the last try, it would have been one of the top jumps or the competition,” Chase said. “His stylie grabs set him apart from other skiers, but the speed was an issue for him and he wasn’t able to land it. Next time he’ll get it.”
The arctic blast we saw at the end of October was just a tease. After a warmish, dry start to November, there isn’t much relief in sight.