The sports program director at the Utah Olympic Park said she could not believe the news late last week when FLY Freestyle, one of the three sport programs at the park, was named both 2012 USSA (United States Ski & Snowboard Association) Club of the Year and 2012 USSA Freestyle Club of the Year.
FLY Freestyle is the first freestyle-specific program ever to win the overall Club of the Year award, and to Clark, that makes the recognition that much sweeter.
"It's quiet an honor, especially when you consider how many clubs there are in USSA," she said. "It is definitely very cool. You look at the history of doing Club of the Year honors and most clubs are those large, multi-sport ventures."
The award is presented to a USSA competition club in each sport that has distinguished itself in providing direction to young athletes through high-level competition programs resulting in athletic success. The USSA athletic management team manages selection with direction from each USSA sport director.
The reward should come as no surprise, as many members of FLY Freestyle -- a program that involves Olympic aerials, moguls, freeride, halfpipe and slopestyle ski disciplines -- had exemplary seasons in their respective sports. FLY has around 40 members in its program with ages ranging from 7 to 25 years old.
None was probably more significant than that of Park City High School student Maddy Olsen, who won the U.S. Nationals in freestyle aerials last month in Stratton Mountain, Vt. Friend and teammate Maddie Gorelik, who finished third in the same event, also competed with Olsen at the 2012 VISA Freestyle World Cup at Deer Valley Resort in early February.
FLY development coach Tony Bushi, a former competitive freestyle skier, said the youngsters definitely helped put the program on the national map.
"That goes without saying," he said. "The U.S. Ski Team definitely recognizes that."
Bushi, in his third year working with FLY Freestyle, said he believes the program was able to shine this season due to its unique way of developing and coaching the athletes.
"I think it's our organization, as well as our approach to the sport of freestyle, rather than focusing on just producing Olympians," he said. "We're revamping lifelong athletes and skiers. Rather than basing our model on tricks, placements and ability, we focus on skiing different terrain, carving different turns and having fun on the hill."
Asked how he expects to follow up this season in the 2012-2013 calendar year, Bushi said it must come from within the program again.
"We're going to strive to grow the program and continue on the same path that we've been on," he said. "Regardless if we get this honor in the future, it matters that we received it. We got this from our peers."
Sharlee Holland, FLY's Elite Team aerials coach, said she didn't even know such an award existed.
"I was shocked," she said. "It was just everything and everyone as a whole. From the junior to devo teams -- everything kind of came together this year. We have a lot of help from other coaches, to people who help with the program, to everybody from the park -- they're all really helpful."
Clark said while the program and the Utah Olympic Park will relish the award, she's already looking forward to next season.
"How do we follow this up?" she asked. "We just continue to get great kids, great coaches, and keep being the tight, awesome program that we've been."