Vail’s Flowers wins downhill, earns spot at nationals
ASPEN At the J2 Junior Olympics the rules are pretty simple: You win, and youre in.The top finisher in each race at this weekends Junior Olympics in Aspen, which features the top kids in the U.S. born in 1991 and 1992, earns an spot at the U.S. National Alpine Championships from March 19 to 26 in Sugarloaf, Maine.In Fridays downhill, the first of four races, Vail skier Kitt Flowers punched his ticket to Sugarloaf, but not without some nail biting.Flowers, who competes with Vail-based Iced Out Racing, was the third racer out of the gate and put down a smoking run.I was fired up out of the start, Flowers said. On (one section) I got a little low, but didnt let it bother me. Through the technical section the Straw Pile I skied really well and slayed it through the bottom.Nobody was able to top Flowers time of 1 minute, 15.44 seconds.Running in bib 3, you get nervous, he said. (Flowers teammate) Hunter (Schleper) came down, then Nick Daniel, who won a training run, came down, and you just have to sit there biting your fingernails, Flowers said.Flowers wasnt the only Iced Out racer waiting in the finish area with an eye on the scoreboard. Kieffer Christianson, a first-year J2, skied right before Flowers and pulled in a time of 1:15.93.It was pretty nerve-wracking, Christianson said. I wasnt sure how good of a run I was going to have because the first person who came down beat me by about a half-second.Only one racer squeezed in between Flowers and Christianson, giving Iced Out two podium spots, while Schleper was 10th, putting all three team members in the top 10.Its exciting because downhill is probably our least successful event with these guys, said Iced Out coach Bruce Knoepfel. Its certainly going to be exciting for the rest of the weekend.Flowers felt pretty good about his chances in Fridays race after top finishes in two training runs and a downhill race on Thursday.It boosted my confidence a lot. Thursday I was third among J2 racers, so I figured I could step it up for (Friday), he said. I really wanted to (win). Im so excited I finally get to make it out to (nationals), and hopefully Ill keep it up this weekend.For Christianson, who excels in technical events, Fridays results is a giant boost.A week ago when we were training downhill, I was two seconds behind Hunter and Kitt, he said. Ive really never skied downhill well in my life. Ive been working on a few things and they came around.Kitt and Kieffer basically had flawless runs, Knoepfel said. It was pretty special.
On the girls side, Ski & Snowboard Club Vails Delainey Ackerman tied for second.I made some tactical mistakes but carried good speed through the whole course, Ackerman said.Last year, as a first-year J2, Ackerman won the downhill, but she didnt need to win this time around for a spot at nationals as she has already qualified through her results in the Colorado Ski Cup.This is more for pride and bragging rights, Ackerman said. Theres pressure of being older and being expected to do well, as opposed to coming in as an unknown.SSCVs Mary Sackbauer, a first-year J2, was 13th, with teammate Abby Ghent in 17th.Races continue today with a super-G.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.