Vail JOs: The kids are just fine |

Vail JOs: The kids are just fine

Chris Freud

VAIL – Oh, those kids these days.

My first reaction to covering the J3 Junior Olympics was “They were born in 1995 and 1996? That is not possible.”

The years 1995 and 1996 are also known as “Chris the College Years: Part II.” Looking back to around that time, we had a Democratic president who had tried to pass health-care reform in the face of GOP opposition. Hmm… The Internet that Al Gore had just invented was staring to catch on, and here’s a shock for the kids born in those years – there was no such thing as texting.

OMG. Or from the parents’ perspective, LOL.

But having covered the J3s for the last week, we’re in good shape. We might see a few of these racers in later years competing at higher levels. More importantly, we have a bunch of good kids with surprisingly-good heads on their shoulders who are going to do things in life.

From this week’s notebook:

• Atta girl, Julia Mueller-Ristine. Tying for the overall and, doubtless of more importance to the Aspen skier, making Whistler Cup is so well-deserved. It’s really hard to describe silver-bronze-silver-silver as disappointing week. Yikes. Yet it would have been for Mueller-Ristine had she not made Whistler.

What makes you root for Mueller-Ristine was how she handled herself this week. Despite being the model of propriety saying all the right things, you knew she was getting really tired of playing the second fiddle to teammate Danielle Brownell-Patty and then Montana Marzario. Persistence paid off here – it doesn’t always. Go show ’em what you got in Whistler, Julia.

• It’s hard to say what was more shocking – Brownell-Patty winning three-straight or hiking in the slalom. This is ski racing which makes both scenarios simultaneously awe-inspiring and not all surprising.

Even more surprising was Dani matter-of-factly describing her super-G inspection. “I had a lot on my mind. This morning, my mom kind of ran over my super-G skis. But that’s OK. I realize I can perform well under pressure and just let everything go and it’s going to happen one way or another.”

As I heard this, I was thinking, “You wanna to back up to that little part about Mom running over the skis, Dani?”

• And now for words rarely ever uttered in Vail: Tremendous job, Aspen.

• Hey Central Region, we love you. Last year, the locals had a good run and there was a little crankiness about supposed hometown bias in these pages. Fear not, I’ve gotten some grumbling from our Ski and Snowboard Club Vail readership that we were a little too “out-of-town biased” this year.

What’s really funny is that the locals are probably more ticked about Aspen racers getting coverage than those from the Central.

I am really impressed with the fact that the Central took half of the gold available this week, given that you would not exactly associate states like Minnesota and Wisconsin with actual mountains. Good on the likes of Nicholas Mitchell, Zak Kjos, Connor Croasdale and so on. And as for Marzario, how can I not like a kid who had to have been named for the greatest quarterback who ever lived, Joe Montana?

• A shout-out to Nicolas Veth. Well done, kid, winning boys overall. If Veth doesn’t do something in skiing, the guy’s going to be in high finance. Veth knew exactly where he was at all times with regard to the math of the overall. Let’s hear it for Taos.

• On Wisconsin: Another shout-out to Zak Kjos. For those of us smack-dab in the middle of state, it’s amazing that Kjos goes from La Crosse, Wis., to Minneapolis – three hours each way, and across a stateline? – to compete for Apex.

• OK, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail … First, you need a new name because you’ve got a really good Nordic program – to Karl Hochtl’s bunch, I’ll be catching up with your exploits in Maine at nationals shortly. But then you get Ski and Snowboard and Nordic Club Vail. And then it becomes Ski and Snowboard and Nordic and Freestyle and Freeride Vail and I just can’t type that. If the locals add ski jumping, I quit.

Coming back, though one set of races does not a program make or break, this was not the week for which the locals had hoped. The ladies ran into a buzz saw in Aspen. The guys struggled, and it didn’t help that Alex Leever was coming off an injury – his performance was the highlight of the week locally, as far as I’m concerned.

This isn’t the worst thing in the world to happen, though. This is a good reality check for SSCV or SSNCV or SSNFFCV – see what I mean? – that there a really good athletes who work really hard and have big aspirations outside of Happy Valley. SSCV has had some big names in its ranks, but that doesn’t guarantee squat. Whether you’re a J3 or any other rank, it’s on you to work to succeed. Use this as motivation.

See you next year.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

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