Squaw’s next generation: Cashman, Hurt reflect on last season | SierraSun.com

Squaw’s next generation: Cashman, Hurt reflect on last season

AJ Hurt

The nation’s top alpine skiers wrapped up their on-snow training at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows last week, marking the U.S. Alpine Ski Team’s final training session until next August.

From recently minted World Cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin to up-and-coming prospects, several members of the team were at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and Squaw Valley during the past several weeks getting in reps following the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

“I’m so excited to be back here in Squaw Valley for spring training camp,” said Shiffrin earlier in the month. “The snow is amazing, the weather is beautiful.”

Among those training at Squaw Valley were two of the resort’s ski team members AJ Hurt and Keely Cashman. The two are coming off breakout seasons in 2018-19 on the North American Cup tour, and during the past few weeks, have had a chance to train and learn from one of the sport’s greatest talents, Shiffrin.

“We don’t get to train together a lot, so when we do, we really try to take advantage of the opportunity,” said Cashman. “(Shiffrin’s) super helpful. She talks to us a lot about what we’re working on. She’s the best. You can’t get any better than her, so being able to train with her is the best training you could possibly get.”

Finding the winning formula

After what she deemed “a bad season” in 2017-18, Cashman was focused on coming back stronger this past year.

“I DNF’d a lot of races in a row at the beginning of the (2017-18) season, and then it was hard to kind of get out of that rut,” she said. “I worked a lot in the summer on my strength and conditioning, and I think that really helped going into this last season.”

Cashman, 20, went on to have a career year, finishing in third place in the North American Cup overall standings, before capping off her season with a first-place finish in giant slalom at the National Championships at Waterville Valley Resort in New Hampshire.

“That was my first national title,” said Cashman. “It was good to end the year on that high note.”

Cashman later went on to take first place in slalom and super-G at the National Junior Championships.

Hurt, a senior at North Tahoe, led the North American Cup tour through the early parts of the season, before Nina O’Brien closed the gap and took the overall lead for good. Hurt, who also spent time in Europe competing in World Cup events, finished the season as the North American Cup downhill and combined champion, and was second in the overall standings.

The 18-year-old opened the season by winning two North American Cup downhill events, two super-G races, and combined at Lake Louise. Hurt finished the year with 19 top-five finishes in cup events.

“It was awesome,” she said on the season. “I was gone more than I’ve ever been from home, just switching between Europe and the U.S. with World Cups and Nor-Ams, but it was a great experience to have those World Cups and it was good to have those races at home to come back to and build your confidence a little.”

Though traveling across the globe this past season, Hurt still managed to compete for North Tahoe’s soccer team during the fall, and recently won a Northern League championship in triple jump for the Lakers’ track and field team.

“It’s my last year of high school, and I figured I’d have a little fun before I feel like I have to be just all skiing,” said Hurt. “And I’ve always felt like doing a lot of sports helps with skiing.”

‘We grew up watching Julia and Marco, and then Bryce and Travis’

Following their seasons on the slopes, Hurt and Cashman reflected on what it means to be athletes on the Squaw Valley Ski Team, and what it’s like coming from a program that has produced some of the nation’s greatest skiers.

“We grew up watching Julia (Mancuso) and Marco (Sullivan), and then Bryce (Bennett) and Travis (Ganong) went up there,” said Hurt. “I’ve never really felt like there’s pressure to do that, but it’s more like something I’ve always wanted. I saw them and wanted to be like them.”

Both skiers said they will spend the majority of next season competing on the North American Cup Tour.

“We’re pretty much on the same track with speed and tech,” said Cashman. “We’re kind of evenly racing those events across the board. So, we’ll pretty much be on the same racing schedule.”

U.S. Ski & Snowboard announced on May 13, Cashman and Hurt have been nominated to the alpine program’s B Team. Hurt was on the B Team last year and Cashman was on the D Team. The A, B, and C Team athletes, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard, will be fully travel-funded this season, allowing athletes to go into prep period camps fully focused on the sport.

In past years, Cashman and Hurt said they have received financial help from the T2 Foundation, and Far West Skiing and its masters program.

The two Squaw products will now get a break from skiing until they head to Argentina for on-snow training in August.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.