SSCV sweeps downhill at Junior Olympics |

SSCV sweeps downhill at Junior Olympics

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
JO's downhill Braun KA 03-07-09

VAIL, Colorado ” Ski and Snowboard Club Vail 2, Mother Nature 0.

A threatening snow storm and a talented field couldn’t stop SSCV on Saturday. An impressive morning ended with SSCV standing on the top-two steps of the podium in both the boys’ and girls’ races.

SSCV’s Nick Braun and Brinton Barry went 1-2 in the boys’ race. On the girls’ side, Celine Guilmineau and Kendall VanHee duplicated the feat.

“An incredible day. Incredible, incredible, incredible,” SSCV coach J.J. Jensen said. “It’s not very often as a coach your team dominates like that.”

It looked like there wouldn’t be much skiing at the start of the day. Heavy snowfall blanketed the course and made visibility a concern. From the bottom of the course, only four sets of gates were visible.

Race officials decided to continue as planned and it paid off. The snow cleared just after the start of the boys’ race to began the morning.

Fans still had trouble seeing Braun, not because of the snow but because of his speed. The key to Braun’s winning time of 49.25 seconds was his ability to maintain both his pace and control. He was the fastest skier in both sections of the course on Saturday.

“You have to stay on your line, stay on your track, and hope for the best,” Braun said. “It means a lot to be able to win on the home hill. To go 1-2 with my teammate Brinton Barry is pretty cool.”

With the tricky weather conditions at the start of the race, the SSCV skiers in the middle of the starting order were able to get information from their teammates who went before them. Braun, who started 24th, said extra information about the course conditions helped.

“Nick is a great skier,” Jensen said. “He has a lot of talent. He has some experience with speed. He knows when to go. He’s an incredible athlete.”

Barry briefly helped the top spot after his stellar run down Golden Peak. Just like during his training runs, Barry nailed the jump. Jensen said he outperformed his competitors in the air which fueled his run to second place in 49.66.

“It felt pretty good,” Barry said. “In some spots, I could have done better. The key was definitely the jump. You have to get set up for that.”

SSCV wasn’t done after the top two. Thomas Grant turned in a strong performance to finish fifth in 50.21.

“It was a great finish,” Jensen said. “Thomas steps it up more everyday.”

Thomas Walsh (14th), Nick Santaniello (18th) and Greycody Johns (22nd) all finished in the top 25 for SSCV.

Guilmineau perfect

While the boys dealt with snow and visibility concerns, the weather smiled on the girls’ race. It probably wouldn’t have mattered for Guilmineau.

With the sun shining, Guilmineau blistered the course in 49.61. The winning time was more than 1.5 seconds faster than her next competitor.

“It feels good,” Guilmineau said. “I feel happy. It’s a big accomplishment.”

“She just did everything right,” Jensen said. “She executed the plan absolutely perfectly.”

Guilmineau nailed the top section of the course, specifically the jump that caused problems for other skiers. SSCV’s Katharine Irwin and Buck Hill’s Paula Moltzan, both title contenders, lost control on the landing and did not finish.

“You just have to press forward on the jump,” VanHee said. “I knew there was going to be ruts after that. I barely made (the next gate). I was just so far down.”

Luckily, VanHee did squeeze inside the gate. She cruised into second with a time of 51.02 after staring fourth.

“I said (Friday) that Kendall had heart,” Jensen said. “Maybe, everybody now will know what I mean. She absolutely loves downhill. She loves speed.”

Two first-year J3 skiers were also impressive for SSCV. Olivia Swift jumped up the leaderboard and into sixth place after starting with the No. 52 bib. Caroline Byrne also made a big leap into eight in 53.18.

“Olivia Swift really stepped it up for the girls,” Jensen said. “Caroline Byrne got eighth as a first-year J3.”

Eva Spaeh (15th), Mallory Slicker (17th) and Molly McGrew (27th) all added to SSCV’s impressive performance.

“It shows that Vail was on top of their game today,” Guilmineau said.

The super-G is set for today at 10:30 a.m. on Golden Peak in Vail.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

Support Local Journalism