Heavenly Foundation freestyle team wraps up season; Shearer, Fisher, Idzorek compete at Nationals | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Heavenly Foundation freestyle team wraps up season; Shearer, Fisher, Idzorek compete at Nationals

The Heavenly Foundation freestyle team wrapped up its 2014-15 season on the biggest stages in the sport. HSSF skiers Zach Shearer, Mia Idzorek and Gabbi Fisher competed at Nationals and Junior Nationals last month, and the team concluded its campaign at Squaw Valley during the first weekend in April.

"Getting invited to Junior Nationals and Nationals was a huge accomplishment for them — being able to go to both events was great," Heavenly freestyle coach Erik Skinner said. "It's a totally different environment."

At the U.S. Freestyle National Championships held in Steamboat Springs, Colo. from March 26-29, the HSSF trio of Shearer, Idzorek and Fisher competed against the best freestyle skiers in the nation. Warm temperatures during the event led to challenging conditions for Heavenly's skiers.

"It was so warm that by the time you warmed up, the course was totally different," Skinner said. "Just because you got to ski it in training doesn't mean that it was anything like that for your run — it was a disadvantage, especially to the younger skiers that hadn't dealt with conditions like that this year."

“We really had a close-knit team

— I can see it building for sure.”Erik SkinnerHeavenly freestyle coach

A week earlier, those same skiers competed at the U.S. Freestyle Junior National Championships held in Park City, Utah. Competitors skied on a tight, challenging course that changed from firm in the morning to slush by the afternoon.

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"It was an ever-changing course and a great event," Skinner said. "The kids did pretty well, but didn't get their best finishes of the year — I think they tried to do a little too much and that nerves played a part."

Fisher delivered HSSF's top performance at Junior Nationals, finishing third in the U-15 age group. The reigning Far West Freestyle skier of the year in her age group couldn't fully translate the success of the Far West season to the national stage.

"Gabbi kind of psyched herself out a little bit — it's a different event when you get to go up against the big boys and girls," Skinner said. "It's definitely an eye-opener when you go and compete against the U.S. team and you see how fast and how big the World Cup skiers are going."

Idzorek worked through injuries to her back and hip while skiing at the event. She qualified for Junior Nationals at the last event possible, and battled through injuries and ailments throughout the season.

"She wasn't able to ski her best because of that injury," Skinner said. "I think that was difficult, but she did a great job trying to push through it."

The following weekend, six Heavenly skiers competed in the last event of the season — a Far West Freestyle event at Squaw Valley. Idzorek led the way for HSSF, wrapping up the campaign by winning her age group.

"Everybody ended on a pretty good note," Skinner said. "We applaud Squaw for even being able to pull off an event that late in the season. It was pretty crazy — the course froze up and stayed solid."

Karli Anderson, Range Chapman and Aaron Budnik each finished second in their age groups at Squaw. Elvira Lundberg took third in her age group, a solid result in her competitive freestyle debut.

"I couldn't have been prouder of her for making it down — that was a pretty intimidating way to start her competitive career," Skinner said.

In its first year under the direction of Skinner, the Heavenly Foundation freestyle team made positive strides. HSSF skiers delivered strong results throughout a season characterized by a lack of snow throughout the region — and a large portion of that success was due to the efforts of their home mountain.

"Especially with the difficult conditions, Heavenly Mountain Resort really came through with helping us to get a venue going and blowing snow on Little Dipper," Skinner said. "That was huge and monumental, and allowed us to have training grounds."

All of Heavenly's skiers will be eligible to return for next season, and Skinner expects as many as three HSSF athletes to race in U.S. Selection Events at the start of the 2015-16 campaign. That along with the progress made this year has Skinner optimistic for the future of the program.

"I really enjoyed working with the team all year and couldn't be prouder of the kids," Skinner said. "They accepted it really well and we really had a close-knit team — I can see it building for sure."

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