Diamond Peak Ski Team: Five compete at U16 championships | SierraSun.com

Diamond Peak Ski Team: Five compete at U16 championships

Special to the Bonanza

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The USSA U16 Junior Championships (formerly known as the Junior Olympics) is a championship event for racers ages 14 and 15 from the five divisions of the Western Region.

Diamond Peak Ski Team athletes compete as part of the Far West Division, in which 22 men and 22 women are selected based on results from U16-only qualifier races in slalom, giant slalom and super G.

There are three separate weekends, each with three races scheduled. Athletes are able to use the best five results out of the nine races in the series scored using "World Cup Points."

Diamond Peak had five athletes qualify — Nick Fischer, Madison Idso, Belle Johnson, Payton Norton and Winston Pretti —and they traveled March 17 to Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, where they met up with their Far West teammates to train in preparation for the 3-event races.

The first event, held Friday, March 20, was the super G on a race hill with a lot of variable terrain, including sections where athletes had to come out of their tucks in order to avoid getting too much air.

DPST athletes went a little too direct at the gates, causing them to lose the fast line, costing them valuable time. The girls were the first to race, with Johnson placing 28th and Madison Idso 64th.

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The boys repeated similar mistakes.

"They skied really well, even though their results don't show it, " said DPST Coach Raquel Norton. "They were over-anxious and were snapping off turns rather than letting the turn develop … and in some instances, went so direct that they got more air than most, flying and landing lower than any other athlete."

Norton finished 29th and Pretti finished 32nd. Fischer gave the crowd and coaches a scare with a cartwheel off the camel jump at mid-course. Bruised and banged up, he was able to ski down unassisted after collecting his skis, poles and helmet. He did not finish.

On Saturday, March 21, Far West athletes showed their depth, with DPST leading the charge. Pretti won the giant slalom event (2:11:11) by six-tenths over Pacific Northwest Ski Association athlete Minam Cravens.

DPST's Norton broke the top five with a fifth-place finish, followed by Fischer in 57th.

While the boys ran the GS, the girls raced slalom. Johnson and Idso also had great performances, with Johnson just missing the medals with an 11th place finish and Idso in 15th.

On Sunday, March 22, in was all Pretti again. He stormed to a second-place finish (1:35.68) in the slalom, just three-hundreths behind PNSA's Minam Cravens (1:35.65), the winner.

Norton was 12th at the conclusion of the race, but straddled the last gate on the second run, disqualifying him. Fischer saw it through and finished 48th.

The girls raced giant slalom adjacent to the men's slalom course. Johnson and Idso again had decent results, with Johnson finishing 15th and Idso 33rd.

Pretti and Johnson have qualified for the USSA U16 Nationals at Sugarloaf in Maine next week, based on their results from these Junior Championships.

"To have had almost three qualify for Nationals out of a pool of five is simply amazing … I am so proud of them," Norton said.