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Locals shine at Hays series

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

The beauty of an open series is the results and benefits of such a race are also wide open.

At least that was the case for Park City Ski Team (PCST) director Dave Galusha as he reflected on the four-day United States Ski Association (USSA) Eric Hays Memorial Open Series held Dec 14-17.

The races, which are non Junior Olympic qualifiers, allowed alpine races from across the Utah division ages 14 years and up to test themselves against all levels of competition. Those levels included skiers ranging from the intermediate to the elite — teen racers, collegiate racers and even World Cup skiers that happened to be in the area over the weekend.

About 250 competitors were entered into the field, meaning 2,000 runs were taken on the Payday Run at Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) during the event.

With that many racers in a no-pressure situation, Galusha saw his team thrive.

"The kids tend to bring their level to the highest, because there is no mental stuff," Galusha said. "It tends to bring out the best in them."

The best, indeed.

PCST found themselves among the top placers in two days of giant slalom and two days of slalom.

"I was very pleased with how our kids performed — not just the ones that placed at the top," Galusha said. "Two or three of our junior racers stepped out and had excellent results."

The athletes were treated to three days of perfect conditions, with fresh courses being set for the men’s and women’s race each morning and afternoon. Things got a bit more challenging on Sunday following a fresh snowfall. Galusha said that day only one course was set for each gender and they switched in the afternoon.

They were also joined by the "usual suspects," from the University of Utah, who regularly finish at the top and some U.S. Ski Teamers who were able to attend the races this year.

"Often, the Ute athletes will take the top three in each race, because they are seasoned athletes and the elite add to that," Galusha said.

Galusha says the presence of such talented skiers serves as a great early-season gauge for younger skiers on his team to see how they stack up against top skiers.

"If they are a few seconds off of Scott Veenus (University of Utah racer), they know it’s gonna be a good year," Galusha said.

He feels it also helps them to mentally prepare and build confidence for their qualifying races later in the season.

The PCST members were able to generate a bit of competition between themselves and snowbird-based development team, ROWMARK, who also placed well at the series.

"In the 13 and 14-year-olds, there’s some strong competition with the Snowbird kids," admits Galusha. "It’s kind of a local rivalry that played out every day."

Jackson Hole also provided the youth with some competition, finishing in fourth through sixth place in many races.

"Things are looking good in numbers and depth of talent in the Intermountain region," Galusha said.

He said those results are encouraging in a youth snow sports scene that is slowly turning towards snowboarding and free-riding.

"Its says that kids are still into ski racing," Galusha said.

The races, which began in 1981 to honor the memory of Eric Hays, a Park City Ski Team member who was killed in a car accident, were wrapped up each day with a special awards ceremony. Ceramic artist Mike Hays, Eric’s brother, creates handmade pieces each year to serve as the awards.

"It’s always a really nice touch with the family there and the handmade pottery," Galusha said. "Some of the ‘U’ athletes get quite a collection of pottery after four years."

The PCST will head to the competition hill once again Jan. 9-12 at PCMR for the FIS Western Elite Series. The race will feature four giant slalom races for both men and women ages 15 and older. The race is open to the entire Western region, so teams from all over the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains will be in attendance. Visit http://www.parkcityskiteam.org for more information.

December 14- Giant Slalom

Women

1. Maggie Craft, PCST

2. Mikaela Grassl,

3. Karen Bell, ROWMARK

December 14- Giant Slalom

Men

1. Scott Veenus, University of Utah

2. Seppi Stiegler, Jackson Hole

3. Brandon Purnell, ROWMARK

December 15- Giant Slalom

Women

1. Kiley Staples, U.S. Ski Team

2. Alexis Vest-Burton, ROWMARK

3. Mikaela Grassl, University of Utah

December 15- Giant Slalom

Men

1. Scott Veenus, University of Utah

2. Seppi Stiegler, Jackson Hole

3. Charlie Reynolds, PCST

December 16- Slalom

Women

1. Kiley Staples, U.S. Ski Team

2. Kimberly Stephens, University of Utah, PCST alumnus

3. Lindsay Cone, U.S. Ski Team

December 16- Slalom

Men

1. Scott Veenus, University of Utah

2. Brian Bolda, PCST

3. Sean Cummiskey, PCST

December 17- Slalom

Women

1. Kimberly Stephens, University of Utah, PCST alumnus

2. Laurie Huff, ROWMARK

3. Jaime Dupatt, PCST

December 17- Slalom

Men

1. Seppi Stiegler, Jackson Hole

2. Sean Cummiskey, PCST

3. Kyle Darling, University of Utah


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