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Vail freestylers shine in Calgary

Ian CroppVail, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Eric Drummond
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CALGARY Only a few weeks ago, Brian Baker was wondering which of his top freestyle skiers would qualify for this years North American Cup tour.So you can understand why Baker, the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail freestyle director, was in good spirits after the opening NorAm last weekend in Calgary that saw four of his five skiers make the finals.The results this past weekend in singles were very surprising, Baker said. Not only to have all the girls make the finals, but to have all of them in the top 11. It was the first NorAm for all of them.Heidi Kloser, 15, just missed the podium in the singles event, taking fourth, while Kristi Waring (15), Kelsey Teran (20) and KC Oakley (19) finished ninth through 11th, respectively.I would have been pleased if a few made it to the finals, but the fact that all of them were able to was pretty extraordinary. Weve only had one skier in a NorAm before and that was Ali Levy (who was on the U.S. Freestyle Team). To have five skiers at NorAms was a big deal.On the mens side, Matt Dillon, 19, was 29th in a 60-person international field in singles.All of the skiers qualified for the NorAm races during the U.S. Freestyle Selections at Winter Park in late December. The three-day event consisted of two days of singles moguls and one day of dual moguls, and skiers were selected based on overall performance. All five SSCV athletes were granted NorAm spots. For Canadian NorAms, 20 spots are reserved for U.S. skiers on both the mens and womens side, while there are 25 for races in the U.S.At the Calgary event, U.S. swept the podium on both the mens and womens side on a difficult course.Of the in the 40 womens field, nearly half had huge mistakes or crashed, Baker said. It was a tough bottom section. Scores were generally pretty low across the board. But the girls did what they needed to do and it was really cool. They put two solid runs together.While Baker was pleased with how all his kids skied, he thought Waring was the biggest surprise.She moved from Denver and is at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and is training really hard, Baker said.After some training back in Vail, the five skiers head out to another NorAm in Val St. Come, Quebec.We werent planning on going to the next two NorAms, but by virtue of the results and how competitive (the kids) were, weve decided to go to the next two, Baker said.

BRECKENRIDGE It only makes sense that when J2-aged skiers are fighting for top spots among college-aged kids that theyll do pretty well against kids their own age.Last weekend, local skiers dominated a pair of Colorado Junior Ski Cup races in Breckenridge. On the womens side, SSCVs Abby Ghent won both giant slalom races, one by almost two seconds and the other by more than 1.5 seconds.In Saturdays giant slalom, five of the top 10 finishers were SSCV athletes, including Mary Sackbauer in second, Julia Keeler in seventh, Marisa Ammaturo in ninth and Jocelyn Irwin in 10th. On Sunday, SSCV had five in the top seven with Sackbauer in fourth, Jessa Bardin fifth, Keeler sixth and Irwin in seventh.On the mens side, Iced Out Racing, coached by Bruce Knoepfel, pulled a clean sweep in the first giant slalom and had its three J2 racers in the top five the following day.Saturday, Kieffer Christianson, who is from Alaska but trains with Iced Out, won, while teammates Cooper Cartmill and Kitt Flowers were second and third, respectively. SSCVs Taylor Wettlaufer was 10th and teammate Cody Unicume was 15th. Sunday, Flowers was second, Cartmill was third and Christianson was fifth, while Wettlaufer and Unicume were 16th and 21st, respectively.I think they are constantly pushing each other in training, and that helps tremendously, Knoepfel said. (A sweep) was our goal (Saturday) and we accomplished that.The girls as a whole did really well, said SSCV coach Brett Donelson. It certainly wasnt the most difficult hill weve been on. The girls showed up, got a course report and went.Donelson thinks the results are impressive considering the difficult training situation the skiers had this fall.It hasnt been easy with the snow weve had to travel a lot, he said. They show up, put in really good effort and theres never any complaining. This group is very competitive.In a pair of NorAm slaloms in Canada over the weekend, Erika Ghent was 19th and 14th. Sunday, Iced Outs Hunter Schleper was 28th in a NorAm slalom at Sunday River, Maine, while SSCVs Will Gregorak was 29th.

WINTER PARK Greta Byrne will be joining an elite group of international skiers later this year. Byrne, a J3 SSCV athlete, punched her ticket to the famed Topolino Games in Italy by blowing away the competition in Winter park at the Topolino Time Trials.In a three-run, best-time slalom and giant slalom combination, Byrne won five of the six runs, and finished more than two seconds ahead of the next closest competitor, teammate Jessica Delacenserie.She pretty much dominated the whole womens side, said SSCV coach Dan Stripp.Byrne had the top times in all three giant and two slalom runs; she was disqualified for one slalom run, which Delacenserie won. By winning the trials, Byrne earned one of three American female spots for the 47th Topolino Games Feb. 22-23 in Panarotta, Italy. Many World Cup racers, including former SSCV skier Lindsey Vonn, have made their mark at the Topolino Games.Shes skiing extremely well and were happy with where she is right now, Stripp said of Byrne. Shes very excited so are all of us.SSCVs Kaytlyn Samuelson was third overall.We were top three pretty much every run, which is pretty outstanding, Stripp said.On the boys side, SSCVs Sean McCormick had the best giant slalom single run and was third overall.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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