Future stars shine brightly at Junior Jam
If you go …
Men’s halfpipe semifinals
When: 11:10 a.m. practice; 12:30 p.m. competition on Thursday.
Where: Golden Peak halfpipe.
Women’s halfpipe semifinals
When: 9 a.m. practice; 10 a.m. competition on Thursday.
Where: Golden Peak halfpipe.
VAIL — Remember the name: Judd Henkes.
The 14-year-old from La Jolla, California, won the boy’s Junior Jam at the halfpipe in Golden Peak on Tuesday, earning a spot in the semifinals with the pros on Thursday.
“It’s going to be cool,” Henkes said. “I’m going to step up my run a bit and try to make finals.”
With the best score of the day, and double the air of any other rider, the young athlete representing Billabong earned a spot to compete against Shaun White, Danny Davis and the rest of the top snowboarders in the world on Thursday in the semis.
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Henkes’ winning run was filled with big air, hitting the 20-foot mark out of the pipe multiple times, and a variety of spins, grabs and inverts.
“I was just really looking to go big,” he said. “It feels like you’re flying. It’s just the best feeling when you land back in the halfpipe.”
Henkes was hitting the 20-foot mark in the air, reaching about 40 feet off the bottom of the pipe.
He topped the field of 10, but there is much promise in the future of the sport with athletes 14 and younger competing in Vail’s halfpipe.
Taiaroa Tait, of Eagle, finished second in the boys’ Junior Jam with a run featuring clean spins and grabs.
“It’s awesome because I’m use to it here,” Tait said of competing in Vail. “I don’t have to acclimate to anything. It’s just right up the road — it’s sweet.”
Tait was flashing his Minturn-based Weston snowboard getting lift out of the pipe on Tuesday.
“It’s awesome repping a local company here,” he said. “It’s a really good company with great boards and I’m just really proud to be riding on one.”
Jack Coyne, 14, of Edwards, just missed the podium, finishing fourth.
“It was really fun,” Coyne said of competing at his home mountain. “I didn’t put down the first run, but I got my second two. It’s a really fun event.”
Jack Warble, of Edwards, finished seventh.
“I was just trying to do my best and go big,” Warble said. “It’s super fun, no stress — well, sometimes — everyone rode great.”
GIRLS GO BIG
Tessa Maud, 12, of Carlsbad, California, earned a spot to compete against the best women on boards on Thursday.
“I’m so stoked to ride against Maddie (Mastro), Chloe (Kim) and Kelly (Clark),” she said. “It’s going to be so much fun.”
Maud linked together a solid run with clean grabs and rotations.
“It’s so fun,” she said. “This is the best pipe I’ve ever ridden. I’m super stoked to ride it.”
The overall experience of competing in the Burton U.S. Open is one these young athletes will remember.
“It was amazing!” said Kaylie Bogart, 10, of the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. “I feel like I’m with a whole bunch of pros competing. It’s amazing!”
LOVE FOR THE PIPE
For a halpipe sizing up to 22 feet, a feature that is primed to swallow smaller riders, the young athletes all gave high praise to the Golden Peak pipe.
“This is the best halpipe in the whole entire world,” Bogart said.
“It’s so good. It’s the best pipe in the world right now, in my opinion,” Tait said.
“It’s awesome competing here in Vail,” Henkes said. “This pipe is absolutely perfect — the best pipe I’ve ever ridden before.”
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.