Leprechauns looking for gold would have found plenty as the Park City Ski Team hosted the USSA Intermountain Championships March 15-17 at its home mountain of Park City Mountain Resort. Athletes from Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah competed for top honors in giant slalom, salom, and dual giant slalom, with PCST racers winning six of the 12 championship races, and placing on the podium in every one.
In a departure from previous championships, and for the first time this season, Park City Ski Team (PCST) executive director and course director Jesse Hunt on Friday opted to run a dual giant slalom race instead of the usual "kombi." The dual race, which pits racers against both the clock and another racer in a series of elimination rounds, had skiers moving through a bracket system well known to NCAA basketball fans caught up in March Madness, but very new to the ski racers and spectators.
"Running a dual giant slalom was certainly a change, but one that really served us well," Hunt said. "We were able to run 156 racers through the course, safely and quickly, which was key as temperatures rose throughout the day. Although they were racing the clock, and not one another, many of the racers had never been in a dual competition before, so it added some motivation, and certainly excitement, to the race."
The head-to-head competition made for some exciting matchups, upsets and photo finishes. Sun Valley Ski Team's Maddison Ferris made it through tough competition to win the U12 Ladies dual GS race. Summit Ski Team's McKenna Schroeder placed second. Megan Ellis of the McCall Ski Racing Team was third. In an upset, PCST's Ella Dingman beat her teammate Hannah Hitchcock to take fourth, with Hitchcock taking fifth.
PCST's Mia Hunt won the U10 Ladies dual GS race, edging out her season rival, Isabella Foos, who placed second. Sun Valley's Marit Kaiser placed third; McCall's Cassidy Lamm was fourth and Snowbasin's Mary Bocock rounded out the podium in fifth.
On the men's side, Park City's Sam Levine won the U12 dual GS, his first of three wins on the weekend. Snowbasin's Jeremy Mathers was second, and Sun Valley's Wyatt Miner placed third. Eli Kimche of PCST took fourth, while Delaney Tyon of Snowbird placed fifth.
For the U10 men, it was Tucker Lee of Summit Ski Team at the top of the podium and his teammate Tyler Young in second, with Park City racers Max Denton, Colter Fry and Gunnar Travis placing third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Saturday, another picture-perfect spring day, brought more spectators out to the Eagle Arena for the giant slalom championship races.
PCST's Brynne Hitchcock, who has outraced most of her competition this season, won the Ladies U12 race with a combined (two-run) time of 1:31.71. Sydney Weaver of Summit Ski Team (1:34.08) placed second. PCST's Katie Clouse (1:34.45) was third, with her teammate Hannah Hitchcock (1:34.58) in fourth place.
The men's U12 giant slalom race saw season-long rivals battling it out for top podium spots. Park City's Levine won with a combined two-run time of 1:32.27. OVST's Bridger Harrison placed second in 1:32.52, with Snowbird's Mathers (1:33.50) taking third.
Sun Valley Ski Team claimed both U10 giant slalom race titles. Marit Kaiser placed first in the ladies with a combined time of 1:39.83, and Josh Blackburn winning the men's race in a time of 1:38.72. Ogden Valley's Foos took silver in the ladies' race with a time of 1:41.43. PCST's Hunt placed third in 1:44.02. Molly Quinlan, also of PCST, took the podium in fifth place in a time of 1:47.28.
Summit Ski Team's Tucker Lee placed second in the U10 men's GS with a time of 1:39.84. PCST's Max Denton placed third (1:41.94), while teammate Carter Sears placed fourth (1:42.11). PCST racers had fifth of the top 10 positions overall.
Sunday, St. Patrick's Day, brought a slight shortage of sunshine but no shortage of excitement as Sam Levine performed a hat trick with a win in the men's U12 slalom. Levine, who had survived several crashes over the season, took first place in 1:19.38, the fastest time of the entire weekend.
"Sam is one of those mild-mannered, hard-working, unassuming competitors who, when he gets on hill, he goes all out," said PCST coach Jason Lance. "There have been times this season when taking risks didn't necessarily work out for him, but this weekend Sam had six incredibly clean, fast runs. We are thrilled for him, and for all our boys who have worked so hard this year."
Sun Valley's Wyatt Minor was a mere seven one-hundredths of a second behind Levine, racing to second place in 1:19.45. Mathers of Snowbasin kept up his impressive streak to finish third in 1:20.06. PCST's Kimche again finished on the podium in fifth place, with his teammate Alex Fugate finishing ninth overall.
In the ladies' U12 slalom, it was Hannah Hitchcock's turn to hoist the trophy as she edged out her sister and Summit's Weaver for the win. Hitchcock won with a time of 1:21.22, while her twin, Brynne, took second place in a close 1:21.55. Sydney Weaver was third in a time of 1:22.35; Emma Morgan of OVST placed fourth in 1:23.86, while Clouse of PCST came in fifth in 1:24.30. Helena Croise, also of PCST, finished in ninth.
"This season has been a competitive one for our girls, and probably no more cat and mouse than between Brynne and Hannah," said PCST coach Jason Lance. "They have consistently performed well throughout the season, so it's fitting they should end the official U12 season on top of the podium. We gave some terrific talent on this team and I'm already excited for next season."
Snowbasin's Mary Bocock, who has been a powerhouse this season, won the U10 slalom in 1:34.50. Sun Valley's Kaiser placed second in 1:35.21, while PCST's Hunt captured another third-place finish in 1:46.24.
Another strong performance by Sun Valley's Blackburn (1:32.70) landed him in first place in the men's U10 slalom. Hunter Johnson of Summit Ski Team placed second in 1:35.59, while Alex Deubel of Rowmark placed third in 1:37.34. PCST racer Sebastian Sheppard edged out teammates Denton and Travis for fifth place.
Said Hunt, "I'm extremely proud of all of our racers who qualified this year for these championship races. While it's wonderful to celebrate so many victories and podium placements, it's the effort, passion and attitude that impress me the most about these athletes."