the adventures of Speedy Steve
Chile was a bit of an eye-opener for 16-year-old Vail local “Speedy” Steve MacCutcheon.As a member of the United States of America Snowboard Association’s Junior World Team and a five-time national champion in various alpine disciplines, MacCutcheon has done his fair share of globetrotting, having competed internationally in Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany.When he arrived in Chile in late August, though, for a training camp at Mont Chelan and then an open-class International Skiing Federation South American Cup event at Valle Nevado, just an hour outside of the capital city of Santiago, MacCutcheon got his first peek at life outside of the first world.”I got to Chile and I didn’t know what to expect,” MacCutcheon said. “I never understood it was more of a Third-World country and I wasn’t really expecting that. It’s nothing like America.”Global revelations aside, the trip was invaluable for MacCutcheon in terms of reaching his season-long goal of making it back to the junior world championships this year, to be held in Arosa, Switzerland.He hung on after a fall in the boardercross competition on Sept. 1 to finish in 40th place and picked up an impressive 117 FIS points for his 10th-place finish in the parallel giant slalom two days later. The FIS points from the parallel GS are important because they will help him get bib draws in other important FIS events throughout the upcoming season so that he can qualify for worlds again.Last year at junior worlds in the Czech Republic, he finished 20th in the parallel GS after a blown second run.But, the points weren’t the only things that MacCutcheon took away from his trip across the equator.
The top-10 finish was inestimable in terms of calculating burgeoning confidence points for the aspiring Olympian and U.S. Snowboard Team member, since it came against a who’s who roster of World Cup stars.The No. 1 ranked rider in the world, Jasey Jay Anderson, of Canada, grabbed a third-place finish and Austrian World Cup standouts Dieter Krassnig, Lukas Gruener and Alexander Maier – the younger brother of the Herminator – finished one, two and five.MacCutcheon also finished just one spot behind his Ski and Snowboard Club Vail alpine coach Anton Pogue, who is a former U.S. alpine champion and World Cup competitor. Consider the youngster validated.”It was a pretty tough field, but I did all right,” MacCutcheon said unassumingly. “Not as well as I had hoped to do in the snowboard cross. But, I was the top junior out of all the countries that were there. They had ranked people who were 19 and younger and I finished first among the younger kids.”A not so-normal 16Because he splits his time riding in regional USSA (United States Ski and Snowboard Association) competitions, national Race for the Cup and U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix events during the competitive season, MacCutcheon doesn’t go to school every day like other kids his age. Taking classes on the internet to accommodate his travel schedule means that he misses out on the regimen of high school life – the hourly class schedule, the pop quizzes, the lunch-room gossip and the dreaded group presentation.
The Chile trip, which he took by himself, was invaluable life learning, though.Pogue, as well as U.S. Snowboard Team members and friends Tyler Jewell and Lisa Kosglow were there with him at the camp and the races at Valle Nevado, but at the same See Speedy, Page A38time they weren’t there to baby-sit.Mostly, MacCutcheon was left to handle himself in a foreign environment, 5,000 miles away from home and light years away from the normal life of a high school sophomore.”There’s a lot of sacrifices you have to make,” MacCutcheon said. “It’s hard not being a normal student at a normal high school and going to prom and going to class with all my friends. With the accomplishments that I’m able to achieve with this, though, I think it’s a lot better for character building than going to normal school.”Talking to those that are close to MacCutcheon, it’s apparent that character is not something which the lengthy youngster is lacking. Some muscle, maybe, at a svelte 6-foot-2, 175 pounds.But not gumption. MacCutcheon’s father, Rick, actually turned down an interview request for this story because he didn’t want his words to overshadow his son’s accomplishments.
“This kid’s gotten to that age where he’s doing things on his own merit,” Rick MacCutcheon said. “He’s so internally motivated.”Ben Boyd, the head snowboarding coach at SSCV said that to know MacCutcheon personally is seemingly to know any other 16 year old. But, the same can’t be said when it comes to personal drive and competitiveness. Or, preparedness.”He’s a great kid,” Boyd said. “I’ve known him a long time. He’s actually pretty laid back, but he definitely knows how to put his game face on. He knows how to prepare, and he has an unbelievable go-for-it attitude. He just wants to go flat out.”A banged-up 2003Going flat out all the time has it consequences, of course, and MacCutcheon repeatedly discovered those consequences last year.Boyd and Pogue both convinced the 2002 junior national champion to start competing in boardercross last season since it will be an Olympic sport at the Turino Winter Games in Italy in 2006. It cost him another run at a national title after a broken wrist held him out of competition, however.The addition of doing boardercross is still a well-thought-out move, since MacCutcheon’s let-it-ride persona is a perfect fit for a sport that demands unflinching aggression from the guys who line up in the starting blocks.His teenage body just couldn’t handle the repeat trauma sustained throughout the season, though, with the wrist injury being just one of a slew of injuries that he battled during a black and blue 2004.
“Last year was a rough year,” MacCutcheon said. “I had a shin problem and they couldn’t really figure out what it was. Then I tore my meniscus and fractured the inside of my patella at a boardercross in Aspen. Then after that, I had back problems and I broke my wrist right before nationals. The injuries accumulated to the point where I just called it.”After a long offseason of physical therapy, and hours logged in the gym and on the pavement running, MacCutcheon is upbeat about the prospects of 2004. He still admits that he could add a few more pounds to his frame, but he hopes that his strong showing in Chile is only the beginning of what he believes could be the season he makes it onto the U.S. Snowboard Team, the first step in making it onto an Olympic team. “I’m shooting for being in the Olympics for both boardercross and parallel GS,” he said. “I’m mainly focusing on 2010, but I’m going to try for 2006 next year and see how it goes. That’s my main goal. I want to make the U.S. Snowboarding A Team, and I want to do that within the next two years.”Boyd said he can already sense that this is going to be a watershed year for his pupil and friend. The possibility that Pogue may not come back to coach at SSCV is somewhat of a concern. Still, Boyd feels that it’s only a matter of time before the little kid he has watched grow up makes a splash at the World Cup level.”I’m stoked that he’s healthy again,” Boyd said. “It was basically because of his go-for-it attitude that he got hurt, but now that he’s healthy again, he’s buzzing, mate. He’s really buzzing.”Stay tuned. For more photos and information on MacCutcheon go to http://speedysteve.comContact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com