Schleper, Ackerman win downhill
VAIL – Forget about calling it the Junior Olympics. Tuesday, it was the Vail Junior Olympics.In the downhill of the J3 Rocky Mountain/Central Region Junior Olympics at Golden Peak, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail skiers cleaned up, taking all three boys’ podium spots, and going 1-2-4 on the girls’ side.Hunter Schleper (46.73 seconds) beat out his opponents by more than half a minute to take the boys’ crown, while Delainey Ackerman (49.22) did the same on the girls’ side.”I am so happy,” Schleper said. “I was second each day (in downhill training). On the first day, I was .04 seconds out, and on the second day I was .03 seconds out.”During her training runs, Ackerman had placed first by .83-and .99-second margins, but she still knew she had to have a great race to stay on top.
“I had to lay one down, or else someone was going to catch me,” Ackerman said.Nobody did catch her, but fellow SSCV skier Jocelyn Irwin (49.77) closed the gap from the training runs and finished in second. Taylor Verdun (49.95) was third, narrowly beating SSCV’s Whitney Setterberg (50.00), who took fourth.Irwin, who finished third in both training runs, had a simple plan for Tuesday’s race.”Just ski clean and try to catch Delainey,” Irwin said.On the boys’ side, Cody Unicume (second place, 47.26) edged out Kitt Flowers (third, 47.28) to round out the podium.”I kind of gave it away at the bottom of the pitch,” Flowers said. “I hit a bump, and got back, but lost my line.” Still, Flowers was happy with his performance in Tuesday’s race and throughout this season.”Last year I finished in the 20s,” Flowers said. “This has probably been my best season ever.”
Neither Ackerman, Irwin nor Setterberg cracked the top five in last year’s race, but this year, on the same course, they seemed to feel the hill a little better.”It’s pretty sweet,” Ackerman said of the near podium sweep. “We were letting everyone know this is our hill.” Much like the top girls’ finishers, the boys are good friends. So taking second or third to a fellow SSCV teammate isn’t a big deal. “I’m kind of used to it,” Flowers said of Schleper’s win.Extra weightWhen he placed second in last year’s downhill, Schleper may have been carrying a bit less weight. But the extra weight he had this year didn’t come in pounds, as much as nuts and bolts.Around a month ago, Schleper broke his collarbone. Opting for the fast track back to the hill, Schleper had a metal plate and 10 screws placed along his bone.
Only 10 days after breaking the bone, Schleper was back on the hill training before he and Ackerman went to the Topolino Children’s Games in Italy. Schleper was only able to get on the hill for three days before the games while adjusting to his newest piece of equipment.”It hurt skiing and it was kind of hard to move,” said Schleper, who chose to ski despite being told by the doctor that he could rebreak the bone, which would necessitate further surgery.”Up until this year, he’s always played hockey,” said Buzz Schleper, Hunter’s father. “He knows how to play with pain.”Setterberg was happy with her fourth-place finish, let alone competing.”I had a leg injury this year, and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to compete this year in the Junior Olympics,” said Setterberg, who partially tore her meniscus and had a hairline fracture in her kneecap.On one of her training runs, Setterberg forgot to stop at the finish, and flipped over the padding in the finish area, but escaped unscathed. Her finish wasn’t as dramatic on Tuesday.”I don’t get any points for freestyle today, but that’s OK,” Setterberg said.
Super-GThe skiers will be back on the hill today for the super-G, with the girls starting around 10:30 a.m.Ackerman hopes to have another great day, while Irwin looks to continue her streak of top-five finishes this year. Setterberg took eighth last year, and wants to grab a few podiums before the Junior Olympics are over.Schleper looks to follow up his win on Tuesday, as well as defend his super-G win from last year, but said he’s got tough competition among Unicume and Flowers.Other SSCV boys’ top finishers in Tuesday’s race include Erick Ghent (11th), Cooper Cartmill (16th), David Graebel (27th) and Connor Klein (40th). For the girls, Abby Ghent (13th), Marisa Ammaturo (24th), Mary Sackbauer (43rd), Lizzie Seibert (45th) and Ashley Atkinson (49th) raced well.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado