Locals Seaton, Leeds make ski halfpipe finals at Dew Tour | VailDaily.com

Locals Seaton, Leeds make ski halfpipe finals at Dew Tour

Vail local Broby Leeds competes at the Dew Tour Friday in Breckenridge. Phil Lindeman photo.

BRECKENRIDGE — Competing against a tough field, Vail locals Taylor Seaton and Broby Leeds qualified for ski halfpipe finals at the Dew Tour on Friday. Finals will be today at 4 p.m., and will be broadcast live on dewtour.com.

With much anticipation leading up to Friday’s event, both Leeds and Seaton could describe their performances in a word: Relieving. The Dew Tour is the only major competition in Colorado before X Games, and both competitors wanted to lay down a solid run to ensure they land in the top 10. Against a field of top performers, including the Olympic podium from 2014, Seaton and Leeds both qualified easily and early, ensuring they didn’t need their second runs, much less a last chance qualifying round.

‘NERVOUS AS HECK’

In today’s 12-man final, the top 10 qualified outright. Finishers 11-20 competed in a final round where the top two spots were awarded entry to the finals. It’s a Dew Tour policy that was initiated last year, and which cost Leeds his spot in finals.

“If they would have just taken the top 12, I would have made it,” Leeds said Friday. “Instead I had to go to the LCQ and I fell.”

This year, Leeds’ eighth-place finish after round 1 held throughout round 2 and the Edwards resident qualified with little worry.

“It’s a relief, for sure, to put down a good run right away in round one,” he said after his second and final round of qualifiers. “I was super hyped on that.”

Watching from the sidelines, his mother, longtime local Liz Leeds, was relieved as well.

“I’m always nervous as heck,” she said after it was over. “But I know he can land it, so I just keep my fingers crossed.”

Leeds’ coach Elana Chase said they stayed strategic with Leeds’ run, avoiding the temptation to go as big as possible after a long summer of training.

“That’s the game we played, and it worked,” she said.

Chase said if the snowfall predictions for today prove true, strategy will also be a big factor in determining the champion.

“We’ll have to see what the weather brings, see what everybody else is doing and see how Broby’s skiing,” she said. “It won’t be a last minute decision. It will be a decision made at the last minute.”

SEATON SIZZLING

For longtime halfpipe competitor Taylor Seaton, of Avon, experience was a key factor in Friday’s seventh-place qualifier finish.

Himself now a World Cup freeskiing judge, Seaton said he observed the judging was favoring more perfect execution over style and flair.

Ending his run with the coveted double cork 1260, a necessary trick in any top-scoring halfpipe performance these days, Seaton said he actually performed the trick spinning in his unnatural direction to save another trick to unleash later.

“Theoretically, I should be able to do it spinning right better, so we’ll see, maybe that will leave me something to up the run a little,” he said.

Seaton’s coach, Vail local Pat Baskins, said the 25-year-old is skiing in the best form of his life right now.

“He went down to New Zealand this summer and worked a nighttime job in a ski shop so he could train,” Baskins said. “He’s putting in the hard work and having to scrap to do it, and it’s showing in his skiing right now. If you take away all the names and just look at the pure skiing, he’s easily in the top 5 out there in this finals field.”

Watch today’s Dew Tour ski superpipe finals at live 4 p.m. on dewtour.com.