Tahoe-area Alpine skiers bring home hardware from Junior Olympics
The best 15- to 17-year-old Alpine ski racers in the country earned invitations to compete in the National Junior Olympics on Aspen Mountain (Colo.) from March 6 through 13.
Top skiers from three divisions across the U.S. ” West, Rocky/Central and East ” are selected to compete in this exciting and challenging national competition. A number of local ski racers were selected for this elite competition that serves as a pipeline for athletes striving to one day be selected to the U.S. Ski Team.
The competition was exciting from the beginning, starting with the pomp and revelry surrounding the opening-night bib draw for the first day of competition, the downhill.
Top-seeded athletes in the bib draw chose their start order, hoping to gain a “competitive edge” based on their selection for their start. The following day racers competed on the famous “America’s Downhill” course, the site of many World Cup and international competitions.
The skiers were challenged in this race by the steeps of Aztec, the rolls of Spring Pitch, the narrow Dago Road, the technical terrain changes of Straw Pile and Norway Jump and Norway Island, all the while fighting undulating terrain and unexpected compression while reaching speeds up to 70 mph.
This same course was also used for the super G, the second speed event in the week-long competition, where racers are challenged to navigate the same steep course as the downhill, only with a more technical course setting, meaning tighter gates than in the downhill.
The super G forces racers to push the limits of their speed while navigating the tighter gates associated with the discipline, all while still reaching speeds of 60 to 70 mph. In both of the speed events ” downhill and super G ” the talented Tahoe-Truckee racers did an impressive job successfully defeating the challenges of both the competition and the mountain.
In the downhill, Bryce Bennett and Jake Perkins of the Squaw Valley Ski Team ended up on the podium in fourth and sixth place, respectively. Graham Collins, also of the Squaw Valley Ski Team, finished 15th, followed by Jake Scannell of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team in 21st and Zach Rickenbach of the Squaw Valley Ski Team in 23rd.
For the girls, Foreste Peterson of the Squaw Valley Ski Team finished 16th, followed by Jacqueline Lebel of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team in 28th and Katie Fitzpatrick of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team in 34th, and Samantha Hall of Squaw Valley Ski Team in 35th.
In the super G, Maclane Brady of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team ” also a starting pitcher on the Truckee High baseball team ” took top honors among local racers, finishing eighth only four-hundredths of a second out of sixth place. The top racers were tightly stacked with just hundredths of a second separating their times, making for an exciting race.
Brady was followed by Sugar Bowl teammate Jake Scannell in 12th, Zach Rickenbach in 19th and Graham Collins in 31st. In the girls’ super G, Lebel finished ninth and Samantha Hall 17th.
In the technical events ” slalom and giant slalom ” local racers again proved to the nation just how competitive Tahoe-area skiers are.
The slalom ended up being a very challenging course, with more than half of the racers in the boys’ race being disqualified or failing to finish. Nevertheless, the Tahoe contingent had some impressive finishes.
Leading the way for the boys was Bennett taking second place, followed by Scannell in 13th and Collins in 22nd. For the girls, Peterson finished fifth, followed by Hall in 12th and Lebel in 14th.
In the giant slalom Bennett took the top honor, winning gold, while Rickenbach took the bronze, Scannell grabbed 11th, Brady 23rd and Collins 36th. In the girls’ race, Lebel finished fifth and was followed by Peterson in seventh and Fitzpatrick in 32nd.
In addition to the accomplishments of the local skiers in the individual races, Bennett won the “overall” award for his consistent top finishes throughout the week.
” Tammie Thompson provided information for this story