Hudak nabs halfpipe national title |

Hudak nabs halfpipe national title

KILLINGTON, Vt. – Free-ride skier Jen Hudak packed up her Salomons almost three years ago and moved to Park City to help fine-tune her skiing. Something’s working. And it’s been a pretty good week for Kim Sharp, too.

Hudak, 20, who lives in Park Meadows, won her second consecutive national title in ski halfpipe Thursday as she dusted the competition on the opening day of the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships at Killington’s Bear Mountain.

Strangely, the podium was a mirror image of last year’s HP podium, also at Killington – Hudak for gold, Sophia Schwartz for silver and Sharp, a member of the Park City Freestyle Team, for bronze.

(Last Saturday in Airolo, Switzerland, Sharp won the gold medal in ski halfpipe at the freestyle World Junior Championships with Schwartz as silver medalist and twin sister Jessie Sharp fourth; Jessie was eighth Thursday.)

The championships continue through the weekend. Moguls results from Friday’s sun-splashed contest were unavailable by mid-morning.

In a better-of-two runs contest, athletes found the warming sun softened the ‘pipe and slowed things, so most had a better score on their first trip. Hudak won with 34.60 points from her first run in the superpipe. Schwartz took the silver medal with her first run, too – worth 29.60 – while Sharp’s first run earned bronze (26.50). Elizabeth Briggs, also Park City Freestyle, was 13th.

In the men’s event, David Wise, a high school junior from Reno, Nev., won with 43.70 from his first run with Tucker Perkins collecting silver (42.90) and Taylor Seaton in third place (41.20). Park City’s Andy Partridge, who skis with Wasatch Freestyle, was 12th.

Hudak has more residences than a guy on the lam. Born in Connecticut, she grew up in Hamden, Conn. started skiing at Vermont’s Okemo Mountain – perhaps 20 miles from Killington – but spent a lot of time at this sprawling seven-peak resort. She moved to Park City in the August 2004, but trains with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club in Colorado.

The daughter of a computer sciences professor at Yale, she’s also taken classes at The U but hasn’t pinned down what she might like to study. But maybe – maybe – she’ll make a decision on that after she gets back from a contest in New Zealand.

"Yeah, I’m all over the place," she laughed. "I claim it all. I’ve got a lot of representations." Her $3,400 check for winning will put a dent in getting to – and from – New Zealand, she said.

With the overnight forecast calling for rain or freezing rain, she was a little anxious about potential conditions for the halfpipe event, but she channeled positive mental images.

"A little self-defense…We were hearing freezing rain yesterday, so I visualized a nice sunny halfpipe…and a sunny halfpipe it was, so I’ll take credit for it." But the good weather vaporized, literally and figuratively, within half an hour after the competition; rain began falling and continued almost until dawn Friday, when things cleared.

"This is like coming home. …Killington is as close to being home as I can get without being at Okemo. I skied here a lot when I was younger."

The conditions – quick in the morning, but soft and slow in the evening as the sun sunk its teeth into the ‘pipe – didn’t bother her. "Everybody has to deal with the same conditions," she reasoned, "so you just focus on yourself and what you’re doing."

She added, "I tried to ski as best as I could, and it worked out. I was really impressed with the halfpipe – Killington did a good job – and, really, with all the skiers. I thought everybody put on a really good show, so it was awesome."

After moguls Friday – with two-time Olympian Jeremy Bloom presenting a $2,500 check to the winner of the rip It Trick of the Day, the schedule called for aerials today and dual moguls Sunday.

Television coverage comes next weekend. Versus (formerly OLN) will have two one-hour shows Sunday (April 1) – at 1 p.m. and then coverage of the Nature Valley Freestyle Challenge dual moguls event at 2 p.m.

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