Masters season concludes at Big Sky
Park City’s own brothers Bob and Bill Skinner, along with a strong local contingent, joined racers from across the Intermountain region to deliver a one-two punch to the competition. The Skinner brothers finished first and second overall in their respective classes (M7/M8) at the Masters National Championships and led the charge for the Intermountain team to capture the coveted USSA Division Cup for the second time in three years.
Seven USSA divisions were represented, competing for class and overall medals during the three-day championships held March 14-19 at Big Sky Resort in Montana. Nearly 200 racers and support staff from across the lower 48 states, Alaska and Canada raced in super G, giant slalom and slalom events for the critical points needed to win the Division Cup.
Hosted by the Northern Division — giving them the home-court advantage — the Intermountain team remained determined in its quest for the Cup as it recalled a similar contested victory (by 1/10th of a point) against a formidable Eastern Division team at Okemo, Vermont, in 2014.
"You could feel the air getting sucked out of the room as the 2014 Division Cup winner was announced as the Intermountain Team," said Bill Skinner, USSA Masters Manager. "We were looking to repeat that scenario again in Big Sky."
True to his word, the Intermountain team stepped up and once again showed its strength on the road by clinching the Division Cup trophy for 2016 with an even tighter margin (0.074 points) despite sweeping class podiums four times and owning the top half of the scoreboard.
An extraordinary three-peat sweep in Men’s Class 5, which took the super G, slalom and GS points, was like Groundhog Day with the finish order remaining the same in all three events. First was Thunder Jalili, Duncan Burns was in second and Jesse Foster took bronze. The fourth Intermountain sweep was in Men’s Class 9 GS with George Dorris first, Bob Dryer second and Dave Brennan third.
Park City locals who climbed the podium to claim both class and overall titles were Amy Lanzel (W7) and Jan Swift (W11) on the women’s side. For the men, Craig Norton (M3), Thunder Jalili (M5) and Bob Skinner (M7) claimed men’s class and overall titles.
One notable battle was in the Women’s Class 6 slalom race. Park City local Chris Katzenberger went up against multiple Masters National Champion Lisa Densmore Ballard (Red Lodge, Montana), the heavy favorite. Katzenberger threw down a Mikaela Shiffrin-like performance with a first-run margin of 2.59 seconds and a second-run margin of 1.7 seconds for a combined win by 4.29 seconds. Katzenberger’s second run time of 49.26 was also the fastest of the day among the women.
Other Park City locals with stand-out performances scoring critical points towards winning the Division Cup were: Chris Paup (W7), Laura Griffiths (W6), Louise McKee (W5), Dave Evans (M11), Nick Hudson (M10), Lou Mauro (M5) and Kevin Vaughan (M4).
The USSA Divisions Cup is awarded to the team earning the highest score using a formula adjusting points for the number of competitors and starts per Division. The top three divisions this year were the Intermountain Division (2.34 points), the Far West Division (2.266 points) and the Eastern Division (1.954 points).
Though not counting for Division Cup points, but part of the Phillips 66 National Speed Series, a downhill race was run the day before the USSA Masters Nationals which proved to be a great tune-up for the super G. Park City racers showing strong results in the DH were Nick Hudson (M10), Kevin O’Connor (M9), Bill Skinner (M8), Lou Mauro (M5), Kevin Vaughan (M4), Ellen Hendrickson (W8) and Chris Paup (W7).
Masters ski racing can be a family sport, as demonstrated by Park City brothers Bill and Bob Skinner and Kevin and Lyn Vaughan, who combined for nine top-10 finishes — seven of them podiums. Big Sky Nationals’ family participation expanded to include husband and wife racers John and Lauren Beckos, Mary and Lance Romick, "Fast Eddie" Fenwick and Corniel Therrien, father and daughter racers Mike and Samantha Sayers and grandfather and granddaughter Robert and Pricilla Tengdin. Collectively, these family racers climbed 19 podiums!
Big Sky has hosted the USSA Masters Nationals several times, most recently in 2013, and is arguably one of the best venues for major alpine racing events with the availability of discipline-specific terrain for downhill, super G, giant slalom and slalom. However, it’s the people who put on these events and the Big Sky Ski Education Foundation, though modest in numbers, is among the best-organized and hardest working race crews in the country. They delivered well-prepared tracks, World Cup-level course sets and a safe racing environment. This was attested to by a standing ovation for them from racers and fans alike during the closing ceremonies.
The 2016 Masters National Championships wraps up the major events for the "Grey Circus" tour. For full results, go to http://www.USSAMasters.org and click on Events and then Nationals.
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Cyndi Schwandt, 68, was known in the mountain biking community for her love of purple, her enthusiasm for the sport, and her involvement in building the early trails system. On Monday she was remembered with a group ride.