Ghent, Schleper earn spots in junior race in Italy
WINTER PARK – Though the last names are familiar, the accomplishment is not.Christa Ghent, 14, the daughter of former U.S. Ski Team member Karen Ghent, and Hunter Schleper, 13, the younger brother of current U.S. Ski Team vet Sarah Schleper, made history in Winter Park last Wednesday and Thursday.Both Ski and Snowboard Club Vail stars were the top J3 racers in the Rocky-Central Region at last week’s Topolino Shootout – a two-day slalom and giant slalom competition to award two berths in the Trofeo Topolino International Junior Race in Val Rendena, Italy, Feb. 18-19.Only six U.S. spots are awarded for the race, with the top girl and boy tandem from the three respective regions – East, Rocky-Central and West – earning a spot. For Ski and Snowboard Club Vail to have one racer earn the regional Topolino berth is impressive. The last racer to do so for SSCV was current U.S. Ski Team star Lindsey Kildow.But to win both?”Certainly for both of them to make it at the same race is pretty unprecedented,” J3 coach Bruce Knoepfel said. “The fact that they have skiing in their blood is paramount to the whole picture. Hunter, it’s pretty remarkable, because he’s a 13 year old. He’s the first 13-year-old boy to go for the U.S.”Ghent said that growing up in such a stRong family skiing tradition – something that Schleper also shares – is a plus. She was quick to point out, however, that both accomplishments came from hard work and dedication. They don’t give berths to the biggest international J3 Alpine competition, she said, just because of who your mom or your sister is.
“I think it’s cool that both of us have families in ski racing,” Ghent said. “I think we both earned it a lot, though. I don’t think it’s because of our families that we made it. We both really try hard during training and then in the weight room and everything. I think we just work really hard.”Schleper said he is excited about the trip to Italy because he will be able to watch his sister race in the FIS World Alpine Championships in Santa Caterina, Italy, the week before he will compete in the Topolino races. “I’m really excited to go,” he said. “It will be fun. I told (Sarah) that I made it and she was really excited because she’s going to see me while I’m over there.” Slim marginsThe two wins for the SSCV racers came in dramatic fashion. Overall times in the shootout were decided by combining the best GS result and slalom result of each racer. Each racer got three runs in each discipline with the GS competition Wednesday and the slalom races Thursday.Ghent headed into the second day of racing behind Team Summit’s Mary Rachel Hostetter by nearly half a second. She turned in a blazing time in her second slalom run to jump ahead of Hostetter and managed to hold on for the win by two-hundredths of a second.
“I was sort of thinking (Hostetter) would make it and not me after the first day,” Ghent said. “I knew that slalom wasn’t her best event, so I knew I had a chance to take that time away from her. It came down to the very, very last hundredths.”Schleper’s win came in an opposite manner. While Ghent was playing catch-up, Schleper jumped out into the lead after his first runs in both days and then had to wait to see if Team Eldora’s Will Gregorak would surpass him.Schleper ended up beating out Gregorak by nine-hundredths of a second. “I had the fastest GS time,” he said. “I didn’t have the best slalom time, but it was still enough to win.”Who’s got next?Going to the Topolino race carries with it heavy expectations. Previous racers who have earned a spot in the past from SSCV have gone on to make tracks in the world of skiing – most notably Kildow and Sarah Schleper.Ghent, who will be attending a U.S. Ski Team camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., before she heads abroad, understands the significance of her win.
She said her main priority for the trip, however, is just to enjoy the shot she has been given.”I haven’t really made my goals yet, but they’re coming,” Ghent said, laughing. “Bruce is going to get mad at me for that. I think I want to go over there and have as much fun as I can. It’s a great experience. (My family) went there earlier and didn’t do any skiing. But, it was a lot of fun with my family and I’m just really excited to go over there and ski. I’m just going to try and ski as well as I can and go as fast as I can.”Schleper earned a call from Ski Racing magazine this week as a result of doing something no other 13-year-old male ski racer has ever done from the United States.Modestly, he said he was pleased to get the win in the shootout and earn the trip abroad.”It feels really good just to do something new,” he said. “It’s something that has never happened before.”Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com.Vail Colorado