Ackerman wins Junior Olympics downhill
MOUNT BACHELOR, Ore. – For three years, Delainey Ackerman has wanted to qualify for U.S. Nationals.The only problem for the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail racer is that she had to wait until this year just to be eligible.”Ever since I knew about it … I always wanted to go in my first year,” said Ackerman, a first-year J2. “This year I set my sights on winning the downhill at (the Junior Olympics).”Friday, Ackerman punched her ticket to this year’s nationals at Alyeska resort in Alaska by smoking the field at the Junior Olympics downhill in Mt. Bachelor, Ore.”It’s pretty sweet especially because I’m the youngest J2 here,” Ackerman said. “It’s kind of overwhelming.”Ackerman blazed through the course in 1 minute, 23.35 seconds, 1.32 seconds ahead of the next finisher.”Even some of the coaches sitting on the hill said it was unbelievable that she won by that much,” said SSCV coach Brett Donelson.Despite a miscue up top, Ackerman was able to pick up speed when it mattered most.”I knew I had to get time back if I wanted to win,” Ackerman said. “I carried a lot of speed on the only pitch there was, and the rest was flat.”On Thursday, Ackerman had the sixth-fastest downhill training time, although several racers in front of her missed gates.”I pretty much use (training) to figure out the line, and on the races I can figure out where to tuck,” she said.
For Friday’s race, Ackerman drew bib 15.”It’s always nice to run at the back of the top 15 – the track is a lot faster,” Ackerman said. “So I was pretty excited when I heard that.”Medal countAt last year’s J3 Junior Olympics, which are held by region, Ackerman cleaned up, winning the downhill, super-G and giant slalom. But Friday’s win eclipses a trio of gold medals.”It’s the whole nation and not just your region,” Ackerman said. “I’ve never raced against some of these kids before.”In addition to a bid for all four races at nationals, Ackerman gets a spot on the U.S. Development Team.Before Friday, Ackerman had been in three downhills, competing against higher age classes.”I’d been pretty nervous because I hurt my knee at the end of last year,” Ackerman said, referring to her fall at the Whistler Cup – a top event for J3 skiers in the world. “After training (Thursday), I was really excited and knew I was ready.”On Tuesday, Ackerman got things rolling with a 17th-place finish in the giant slalom. After her first run, Ackerman sat in 30th place.”It was really cool because I got second in the second run, which was a big confidence booster.”Ackerman, a ninth-grader at the Vail Valley Academy, has a vague idea what she can expect at nationals.
“I know there’s a really sweet jump (on the course), and when you go off, all you can see is the ocean,” she said.LiftlessIn Friday’s race, where the conditions were so blustery that the lifts weren’t operation, SSCV’s Will Gregorak took sixth in the boys race, while local Hunter Schleper was 10th. On the girls’ side, SSCV’s Whitney Setterberg had a great race to take 19th – her third top-25 of the week. Tuesday, Setterberg was 25th in the giant slalom, and then took 20th in Wednesday’s slalom.Schleper put together two great giant slalom runs to take fourth, while teammate Kitt Flowers was 13th. Flowers has also had a solid week, placing 24th in the slalom and 29th in the downhill.Today, weather pending, both boys and girls will race a super-G.STEAMBOATSki and Snowboard Club Vail freestyle director Brian Baker had plenty for which to be happy Friday.In addition to top results in moguls at the Junior Olympics in Steamboat Springs, the freestyle team got the word that five athletes were invited to nationals.”That’s the most we’ve ever qualified for nationals,” Baker said.
The day before Friday’s string of good news, James Leonard pulled in a top finish in the slopestyle competition, taking sixth.”That was a great result for him,” Baker said.Moguls skier Matt Dillon took eighth in the moguls competition Friday.”There are 70 men, and that’s a national-level field, so to be in the top 10 is great,” Baker said.Andre Lane, a first-time competitor, had a great day, as did Matt White, who just missed the cut for finals.Although the girls had a bit of trouble Friday, four are heading to nationals, including Heidi Kloser, Kristi Waring, Ali Bathgate and Kelsey Teran. All but Waring will be competing in both single and dual moguls.On the boys’ side, Dillon will be competing in singles.”He’s the first guys out of Vail to qualify for since Toby Dawson,” Baker said.Waring was the top girls’ finisher Friday, in 24th.The competition closes out Sunday with dual moguls.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.