Park City skier Sabrina Cass takes moguls Junior Worlds gold at age 17
Sabrina Cass, a junior at Park City High School, came into this moguls season with certain expectations – mainly, to do well in the NorAm tour against her American and Canadian rivals.
But after exceeding her goals, she was presented with an opportunity to compete at the Junior World Ski Championships in Chiesa in Valmalenco, Italy, on Friday. She seized her chance, and went from an eighth-place finisher on the NorAm circuit to moguls Junior World Champion.
Cass grew up in Cheshire, Connecticut, where she started skiing at age two and competing in moguls skiing at age 10. Two seasons ago she and her family decided to split time between Cheshire and Park City. Cass joined Wasatch Freestyle for the 2017-2018 winter season, finished 39th in the NorAm tour, and started competing alongside her new teammates, Kasey and Madison Hogg.
“The three of us became super close because we were always traveling together,” Cass said. “It was always us three and the boys.”
Along the way, they decided they were the “alphas” of the competitive circuit – the leaders of the pack – and the nickname stuck with their teammates. The sisters and Cass were officially the Wolf Pack.
“They are very close,” said Jon O’Brien, director of Wasatch Freestyle.
They are also very competitive. Madison finished the season second overall on the NorAm circuit this season, and took fifth in dual moguls at the Junior Worlds and seventh moguls. Her younger sister, Kasey, took sixth overall on the NorAm circuit and won season opener in Stratton, Vermont, outright.
Each spring, the pack splits up as Cass and her family return to Cheshire where Cass attends Cheshire High School, and each fall it reconvenes as Cass returns to Park City, and Park City High School.
Cass said the transition back and forth can be stressful, especially while trying to juggle schoolwork, but she said she is thankful for the teachers who help her manage her schedule and for the opportunity to compete and train in Park City.
“It’s definitely worth it,” she said.
This season, Cass was hoping to make the finals – the top 16 – at all four NorAm cups she would compete in, and with the exception of one dual moguls event, she achieved that goal. But single moguls events are where she excelled.
She started off the season with a sixth-place finish at Stratton Mountain, Vermont in early February, took fifth a week later at Val St.-Come, Quebec, took fourteenth in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on Feb. 23, and took 10th at Apex Mountain, British Columbia, in early March.
She finished eighth overall.
That put her in the running for Junior Worlds – which pits the best moguls skiers age 19 and younger from each continental cup against each other, including four Americans from the NorAm tour.
Cass was the fifth eligible American, but one of the competitors, Kenzie Radway of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, was injured at the national championships in Waterville Valley, Vermont in mid-March, and Cass was called up for her first shot at a junior title.
“That made it even more crazy that I was able to win it,” Cass said.
The Hogg sisters had also made the cut – Kasey was sixth on the NorAm tour, but several American competitors ahead of her were ineligible due to their age, while Madison was second overall – so the whole Wolf Pack traveled to Chiesa in Valmalenco, Italy.
“Traveling to Italy with them was an amazing experience,” Cass said of the Wolf Pack. “It’s nice to have friend that you compete against but who are always there for you.”
Cass said she had no expectation to win the single moguls event, but she qualified into the finals in seventh place. She then watched in the finals as her 73-point run was enough to keep her in the lead as the final scores came in.
Parents and coaches celebrated, congratulating Cass on her run. The Junior Worlds first-timer couldn’t believe it.
“It was crazy,” she said. “I had a great run, but there were other girls who had excellent runs as well. It was crazy. It was a great feeling.”
Her success with Wasatch Freestyle at Junior Worlds puts her among a handful of other athletes the team has coached, like Brad and Bryon Wilson, who have both won Junior World titles. Brad, 26, finished seventh on the World Cup circuit this season and took second in dual moguls at the World Championships at Deer Valley in February. Bryon, 31, a bronze medalist at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, is currently a coach with Wasatch Freestyle.
O’Brien said the result is also a big boost in confidence for Cass, and an “outstanding honor.”
At 17, Cass could potentially have three more chances at a Junior World title.
For now, she is simply basking in her success.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “Especially because I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.