Three members of the Diamond Peak Ski Team represented the Far West Division well at the USSA Marriott Western Region J3 Junior Championships at Big Sky, Mont., from March 15-18.
Formerly known as the Junior Olympics, the event marks the highest level at which 13- and 14-year-olds can compete in the U.S.
Although bruised and battered, the Far West’s top-seeded athletes dominated the competition, and it was apparent that on any given run, a number of Far West skiers from the middle and back of the pack were going to dethrone the top 10.
“It was amazing to watch how deep and talented the Far West field is, and our three Diamond Peak girls put in performances that were second to none,” said Diamond Peak J3 Coach Eric Garayoa, referring to Lauren Keller, Amanda Pretti and Annika Hansen.
The event began with an intense super G. The speeds were higher and the track was riskier than any the competitors had previously seen this season. The super G eliminated Keller and Pretti. Pretti’s crash — and significant blood loss — was enough for her coaches to question whether she should continue to compete, but she would have no such discussion. Pretti continued to push through it and toughed out four more runs over the next two days.
The giant slalom event eliminated a third of the field over two runs with tough course sets and deteriorating conditions. Hansen put up a fight in her first run, moving from 76th to 28th place and making the flip. Even more amazingly, Hansen finished third on the second run to move her to 10th overall in addition to earning the Hard Charger award for moving up 67 places in the standings.
The slalom was extremely challenging, eliminating all but one of the top-seeded Far West girls on the first run. Keller survived the first run, finishing 24th, then decided that she was there to compete and destroyed the field, moving up to finish 10th overall. Hansen moved from start position 46 to ninth place on the first run and was giving it her all when she straddled a hairpin in the second run and was disqualified.