A pair of podiums: Heavenly Foundation’s Gardner, Barnwell deliver stunning finishes in last races of season | TahoeDailyTribune.com

A pair of podiums: Heavenly Foundation’s Gardner, Barnwell deliver stunning finishes in last races of season

Tribune staff report

In the last weekend of the season, a pair of Heavenly Foundation alpine skiers delivered shocking results. HSSF's Gunnar Barnwell and Whitney Gardner both made the podium with third-place finishes at the Western Regional Speed Series events last weekend, ending the 2014-15 campaign on a successful note.

After a great training run Friday, Whitney Gardner was able to take third place in the Western Regional Speed Series the following day in a two-run downhill event on Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Ore. She finished with a combined time of 2:09.74 while her sister Michael managed a 16th-place finish on Sunday.

Coaches and family members said the more than 20 pounds of muscle the elder Gardner put on to cope with the rigors of competing at the World Cup level with the USA Ski Cross team really showed in her racing over the weekend. Having not competed alpine ski racing events for more than four years before returning to the discipline this season, Whitney Gardner had some doubts about being able to compete seriously in the western regionals — but recent performances convinced her to enter.

The event pitted the Gardner sisters against international competitors. And their mother Kelly Gardner could not have been prouder to have both her girls competing in the event.

"Michael fell hard, but came down all smiles on a beautiful, warm sunny day of skiing that brought the end of 21 years standing on the side of an alpine course," Kelly Gardner said. "Although Whitney keeps reminding me I can still watch ski cross."

Also racing against international competition last weekend was Barnwell, who raced in an the Far West Speed Finals at Mammoth Mountain. Fresh off receiving news that Nordica is prepared to give him a sliver sponsorship and earning an apparel sponsorship from XYZ Clothing and Apparel, Barnwell was motivated to show he could compete in a speed event.

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"I had one goal this weekend — and that was to get on the podium and show my sponsors they were backing the right kid," Barnwell said.

Barnwell had a steady climb over three races, and knew the podium was in sight after his first run — he finished a close fourth in his age group and 16th overall in a field that included 18 to 21 year olds. His second race Saturday proved a bit more challenging, as the high temperatures wreaked havoc on the course by amplifying both sticky and icy spots — results from that race put Barnwell in sixth place in his respective age group.

After a night of rest and recuperation, both Barnwell and Heavenly's Matthew Shick were on the hill early for inspection and eager for a shot at an early start since the girls were done racing by 8:30 a.m.

Barnwell had his work cut out for him with an 8:45 a.m. start time and starting third from last. After hearing that Shick had earned an impressive top-30 finish to put him 28th overall at that time, Barnwell charged out of the start at the top of Hair Jump near the base of Cornice Bowl just above Gremlins Gulch and onto a very narrow Powder Bowl road.

Powder Bowl road was approximately 50 feet across and lined with netting to stop racers from tumbling into dirt and rocks below the road on the left. After surviving that stretch, Barnwell made his way down the steep face of Andy's Double Gold into the finish — he completed the course in less than 1:20.

With that time, Barnwell missed silver by less than 12-hundredths of a second. He finished on the podium along with a skier from New Zealand and Mammoth's Charlie Regelbrugge, who finished second.

"To shut out all the other powerful Lake Tahoe programs in the last race of the season before camps this summer was a great accomplishment," Heavenly U-14 alpine coach Jim Hein said about the Mammoth event.

For more info about Heavenly Foundation summer ski camps, summer events or 2015-16 team registration, call (530) 541-7354 or visit the foundation online at http://www.facebook.com/HeavenlySkiandSnowboardFoundation.

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