Area freestylists fly high at Jr. Olympics
In the world of junior freestyle skiing, Park City teams seem to be near the top.
Freestyle’s future stars wrapped up a week of action in Park City on Saturday in the Chevrolet Freestyle Junior Olympics, with locally trained youth often leading the competition. Along with Park City and the Intermountain crew of junior freestylists, were some of the best young athletes from around the country in slopestyle, dual moguls and aerials. All events were held on the hills of PCMR and the Utah Olympic Park (UOP).
Wasatch Freestyle Foundation had a particularly good week filled with positive results. Four juniors had four podium wins, three of which were first places. Junior Worlds silver medallist Jay Bowman-Kirigan took first in male dual moguls and third in moguls. In female mogul competition, Olivia Akerley took first place. Akerley also surprised the field by winning the slopestyle competition, a discipline that she focuses on less than moguls according to her coach and Wasatch director Jon O’Brien.
O’Brien was most pleased with the performance of his athletes in dual moguls. He says that because his team trains on the Deer Valley moguls course, known as the longest and hardest course on the World Cup circuit, they are particularly prepared to endure the race-off structure of the event.
"Duals is a grueling event," said O’Brien. "The course they train on at Deer Valley really prepares these kids."
Freestyle Lives Year-round (FLY) also had a very successful week of aerials competition at the UOP. Four females had top 10 finishes, and one male, Austin Smith, finished in first place in aerials. For the girls, Sami Palmer and Brandy Davis took first and second place in aerials and Siena Palmacci took second in aerials, second in slopestyle and third in halfpipe.
"I think we had some great results," said FLY director Chris "Hatch" Haslock. "We had a number of kids qualify. It’s always great to get on the podium.
Park City Freestyle fared well with three members in the top 10. Ani Haas, who missed last season with a back injury, made a comeback, finishing seventh in moguls. Ryan Koemans finished eighth overall in moguls and Bobby Carroll took tenth. The positive results were vindication for Berry that his team is on the right track, after struggling at the Junior Olympics last year.
"This year they stepped up to the competition," Park City Freestyle Team director Mick Berry said.
He said the biggest difference was the overall commitment to training and competing, which allowed all of his team to finish well.
All of the Park City-based teams will wrap up their season this week at the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships, March 23-26 in Killington, Vermont. The coaches agree that the strong results at the Junior Olympics will help improve confidence for competition this week.
"After the Junior Worlds and the Junior Olympics, we feel like were ready and feeling confident," O’Brien said.
"If they can do well at Junior Olympics, they can really do well at Nationals," Berry said.
Haslock said that even his athletes that didn’t perform well at the Junior Olympics now have incentive to finish the season on top and those that did well will likely try to perform even better.
According to Berry, having the event in "our own back yard" is very helpful to the three freestyle programs that call Park City home.
"It’s nice, because it’s cheaper for kids and families," Berry said.
He also said that the extra amount of support in the crowd helps the kids perform better.
For O’Brien, the " sleeping in your own bed" factor also seems to play a part with making sure kids are in optimal condition to race each day. The only downside is balancing school and home obligations with competition every day. Almost all of the Junior Olympic qualifiers will travel to nationals and miss school, so attending last week was crucial.
Another area where familiarity wasn’t an advantage was on the moguls course. With ever-changing weather conditions and hundreds of kids pounding the snow each day, the course was different daily. Berry said that the joint efforts of his team, volunteers, parents and the PCMR Race crew working tirelessly kept the course groomed throughout the weeklong event.
"Mick (Berry) really, really worked hard to make a course that is good for everyone," O’Brien said.
In contrast, the aerials hill at the UOP was still fairly consistent. Haslock said that warm temperatures on Friday meant using chemicals to keep the snow hard on the jumps, but the landing area maintained its grooming throughout the day of competition.
"It’s always nice to know the course, and not having to travel always has its advantages," said Haslock.
The 2006 Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships will be held March 23-26 in Killington, Vt.
For complete results from the Freestyle Junior Olympics, visit http://www.boardfrenzy.com.
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