Ski and Snowboard Club Vail skiers ready for Junior Olympics
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” The youngsters zipping around gates in Vail the next seven days could be the next Lindsey Vonn or Ted Ligety.
Seriously, there’s a good chance one or more will some day race on the World Cup circuit. The 2009 USSA Rocky/Central J3 Junior Olympics start today at 10:30 a.m. with downhill training on Golden Peak in Vail.
More than 150 skiers from 15 states will click into their skis for downhill, super-G, giant slalom and slalom races.
“When Lindsay Vonn (an SSCV alum) was here 10 years ago, she was one of these kids. She’s OK,” Ski and Snowboard Club Vail coach J.J. Jensen said jokingly. “Sarah Schleper was one of our kids here. They all come up through this. You’re looking right now at some of the best talent in the country. The chances of someone here racing World Cup some day is pretty good.”
The J3 Junior Olympics field is made up of 13-and-14-year-olds from all other the country. The athletes qualified in events throughout the winter to reach Vail.
The SSCV contingent is the largest of any team in the field, and for good reason. The 20 athletes suiting up for SSCV are some of the top skiers in the country. Jensen pointed to Anthony Romano, Nick Braun, Greycody Johns, Connor Reynolds, Katharine Irwin and Celine Guilmineau as SSCV athletes to watch out for, but it wouldn’t be a surprise for any of the 20 skiers to reach the podium.
Caroline Bryne, Molly McGrew, Mallory Slicker, Guilmineau, Irwin, Eva Spaeh, Olivia Swift, Kendall VanHee, Kiersten Weiss and Isabelle Zaik-Hodgkins will compete for the SSCV girls. On the boys’ side, Brinton Barry, Braun, Thomas Grant, Alex Leever, Johns, Reynolds, Anthony Romano, Nicky Romano, Nick Santaniello and Thomas Walsh will wear the SSCV colors.
“I hope we get a bunch of kids in the top 10 everyday,” Jensen said. “Both on the men’s and the women’s side.”
The SSCV athletes should find plenty of success at the Junior Olympics. The same Golden Peak course they call home is hosting the event. The familiarity could mean more podiums for SSCV.
“Home-hill advantage is huge,” Jensen said. “Our kids train and race on it everyday. These kids from other areas of Colorado have all raced or trained on the hill at one time or another. For the kids from the Midwest, it’s tough. It’s hard, you can’t see the bottom of the hill. You can’t count those kids out. There are some great skiers.”
The speed events (downhill and super-G) are where SSCV’s knowledge of the course could pay the most dividends. Many of the skiers competing in Vail are just starting to race in downhills for the first time. That doesn’t mean the athletes aren’t excited for the ultimate speed test where they can go more than 70 mph.
“I’m looking forward to the downhill,” SSCV’s Mallory Slicker said. “We don’t get to do a lot of it, and you get to go really fast. It’s kind of scary (going 70 mph).”
Maybe the only concern for the Junior Olympics is the spring-like weather melting the snow. The forecast calls for temperatures to drop slightly the next few days, which is good for ski racing. Even if it stays warm, the course should hold up fine.
“(The course) was great,” said Barry, a Vail native, after super-G training on Wednesday. “The snow was hard. I really liked the conditions.”
For the downhill race, the course is set up to challenge the athletes. The skiers will get two chances to test the course on Thursday and Friday before the official downhill race on Saturday.
“(The course) has some air,” Jensen said. “There’s some speed. They will run high 60s maybe 70 miles per hour.”
Following Saturday’s downhill is the super-G on Sunday, with giant slalom and slalom on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.