Valley skiers open season at Copper
COPPER MOUNTAIN – Whoever named the Bittersweet run at Copper Mountain must have known there would be days like Friday.The conditions were bitter cold for the more than 250 high school skiers competing in the first giant slalom race of the year. And for those who made it down the hill on both runs, the feeling was good enough to stave off the cold for a few minutes.Skiers from the Vail Valley raced well, with several punching their way into the top 20 and many placing in the top 40.”Of the nine guys I had skiing, four were in the top 20 and four others moved up (from their starting positions) 30 and 40 places,” said Vail Mountain coach Liv Pierce. “Two of my girls, in their second year racing, got in the top 20, and all my girls got a second run.”With 124 girls and 129 guys starting in the race, the field was cut down to 80 for the second runs.Battle Mountain advanced 33 of its 44 skiers to the second run and had four girls and five guys in the top 30. Eagle Valley put two girls in the top 20 and spread out about a half-dozen guys and girls in the top 60.The coaches were pleased with their kids’ performance considering the minimal training they had done for GS.”We’ve only had three days of training with gates,” said Battle Mountain coach Simon Marsh. “We’re also going against a lot of other kids are running FIS races, and are getting more training.”Eagle Valley coach Cappie Green said her team hasn’t even had a full day of training with gates, but said that the course officials took that into consideration.”They know it’s the first race and that some teams have had a ton of training, while other teams haven’t, so they keep the course straightforward,” Green said.
While the course setup didn’t cause too many crashes, it posed some problems.Marsh said many of his racers made mistakes near the end of the run.”The bottom didn’t let you rest,” Marsh said. “The turns were really offset horizontally, so it was hard to pick up speed or get the low line.”Those who finished well found a good line, especially in the second run.”Most of the time in a big race, you get down to man-made snow, which can get bumpy,” Pierce said. “If you get a good line, you won’t hit a berm or a rut. Those who could ski inside were really fast.”At around 3 p.m., when the second run for the boys began, the conditions made it more imperative to run a smart race.”There was a lot of flat light,” said Eagle Valley skier Andre Lane. “They didn’t reset the course after the girls, so there were some pretty big ruts.”Still, Lane was able to pull off a good run, earning the top finish on his team.Gaining experienceNot only was this the first race of the year, but for some skiers, it was their first race ever.Vail Christian’s Terrin Kinser finished both runs in her first high school competition.
“I was expecting to fall, but once I got down to the bottom, I was like, ‘Yes,'” Kinser said. “It was scary because of the ruts and ice.”Blaze Huega of Battle Mountain looked nothing like a rookie in his first high school race.”He’s a very smooth racer,” Marsh said.Wilder Huega, Blaze’s older brother had a great first run, and looked to be in a top-five spot, but crashed on one of the final gates. “He skis on the edge, which is great,” Marsh said. “He can take chances, and that’s the way he gets faster.”Vail Mountain skier Mick Seeman, who was the top boys’ finisher on his team, was glad there were two runs, unlike in years past.”It gives you a chance to come back,” Seeman said. “But also, there is the hazard of falling. You need to memorize the course, which you can do when you are slipping it.”Other top Vail Mountain boys finishers were Drew Riley, Chris Woods, David Deline and Blake Armstrong. For the girls, Lucy Sackbauer led the way, followed by Joely Denkinger, Kenzie Grant, Axi Navas and Christina White.”As a team we did really well,” Sackbauer said. “A lot of us did a lot better than we expected.”For Eagle Valley, Hannah Nelson, Nicole Luczkow and Kerstin Leary were the top girls’ skiers.”I’m hoping these three can qualify for state,” said Green, who added that she was happy some of her younger boys’ skiers gained experience in the race.
The Huskies had two Kelly’s finishing at the top for the team. Kelly Scholl finished one second ahead of Kelly VanHee, while Rebecca Richardson and Kate VanHee also skied well for Battle Mountain.Top finishers for the Battle Mountain boys were Blaze Heuga, Petey Moore and Bart Cuomo.Up nextAfter a break for the holidays, the teams will resume practice on Jan. 2 for the next event, a slalom race in Steamboat Springs on Jan. 7.”We’ll be working on our hands and keeping our bodies forward,” Green said.Some of the Battle Mountain skiers plan on attending a ski camp at Golden Peak before they are allowed to practice as a team.And while Vail Mountain will switch to slalom training like the other schools, Pierce looks to continue to challenge her kids.”We are going to work on difficult terrain like (Bittersweet) with rolls and breakovers,” Pierce said.For complete results from the race, check this Thursday’s Sports around the Town section.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado