Vail athlete Senna Leith gets first World Cup snowboard cross podium
Vail snowboarder Senna Leith raced through foggy conditions Sunday to a third-place finish at a World Cup snowboard cross competition in Big White, British Columbia.
It was the first podium for Leith, 22, in snowboard cross.
Leith also earned his first-ever North America Cup podium at Big White resort. The North America Cup is a level below the World Cup, and Big White resort enjoyed its first-ever World Cup event over the weekend.
“I knew coming in here it was the first time they’re ever hosted a World Cup, and I thought it’d be cool to get my first World Cup podium at the same place I got my first NorAm podium,” Leith said.
Leith said the difficult conditions may have given him an advantage.
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“I felt like I was in my element,” he said. “When it gets nasty out, I get an extra push to perform.”
Big White Resort, Leith said, “we jokingly call it Big Whiteout, because there’s a lot of fog that comes out.
“I haven’t seen the sun in a week,” he added. “It has been entirely fogged in and raining.”
Snowboard cross racing pits four competitors against one another at a time. Leith said from the round of eight, when 32 competitors remained, all the way on to the “big final” last round, the competition was tight.
“Every heat could have been a big final in any given race,” Leith said. “I was super-nervous all day because I was hungry, I hadn’t really had a good result all season, and I kept telling myself that today was my day.”
Knowing the course, Leith said, strategy helped him, as well.
“I knew the bottom third of the course was the most important,” he said. “So I knew to be patient and position myself well.”
As he was the top-finishing American on the day, his teammates rushed him and tackled him in the finish corral.
“That’s what they do when anyone gets on the podium,” Leith said. “It’s one big celebration right when you cross the line.”
VSSA grad Gulini also in third
The third place finisher for the women also has a connection to Vail. While she wasn’t here long, Faye Gulini attended and graduated from Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy in Minturn before moving on to become a professional snowboard cross racer.
Coming into the second race of the weekend, Gulini already has earned three top-10 World Cup finishes this season. On Sunday, she put it all together to earn her first podium of the season, and second of her career. She now sits in fifth overall in the FIS Cup Standings.
“I fall more and more in love with my sport every race,” Gulini said. “I’m so happy that all my hard work paid off today. I’m looking to carry this momentum into the last couple of races of the season. The team dynamic and spirit is at an all-time high, and I see a lot more podiums in the near future for the U.S. snowboardcross team.”
U.S. Ski & Snowboard contributed to this report.