HSF’s Harris wins J3 Junior Olympics | TahoeDailyTribune.com

HSF’s Harris wins J3 Junior Olympics

Chad Sellmer, Tribune staff writer

Heavenly Ski Foundation’s Marty Harris won the gold in slalom and giant slalom events and placed second in the super-G, leaving last weekend’s Junior Olympics in Montana as the overall champion in the J3 division.

His three Alpine medals exceeded even his own expectations as well as his HSF coaches.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Junior Olympics are held for age groups J1-J4 in three U.S. regions. This year’s J3 competition took place at Big Sky Resort in Missoula, Mont.

Harris, a 14-year-old freshman at South Tahoe High School, won the overall gold medal, as did Amy Harris (no relation) of Incline Village in the girls’ J3 division. The March 21-23 competition proved a banner weekend for Tahoe skiers as Bryce Wehan of the Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation, Jake Baker of Sierra and HSF’s Holly O’Brien also scored top 10 finishes.

Marty Harris said he was “very happy” about winning the overall J3s in this, his 20th event of the season.

“I wasn’t expecting to do as well as that because I hadn’t been skiing very well before that,” he said.

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Despite his modesty, the truth is that Harris has placed at or near the top in many competitions this year as a member of HSF, usually running neck-in-neck with Squaw Valley’s Travis Ganong.

Harris, who hopes to someday make the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, credits “training every day” for his success at this year’s JO.

“I train every other day with the team because most of the kids are still in school,” he said.

His HSF coach, Noel Dufty, called Harris a “super talent” and noted that he also made the U.S. team to travel to Whistler, B.C. on Monday. This will be Harris’ second opportunity this season to represent the United States in international competition, the first coming at Topolino, Italy.

“You have to understand how difficult this is: he races over 120 kids in just (this region), plus another four or five areas to go to that event,” Dufty said. “By the time you qualify out of 1,000 to 1,500 kids and you come out on top, it means you’ve really won something. You join the winners from the rest of the country and they choose the U.S. team (from that). That’s huge to represent your country.”

Dufty also praised the performance of O’Brien, who had three top-10 finishes, as well as HSF competitors in the J1-2 Western Region FIS Championships at Mammoth Mountain last week.

“We have so many kids doing so much,” he said. “It was quite big (for HSF). We won eight or nine medals. South Lake Tahoe keeps producing good kids. We may not have a million of them, but we always have good quality.

“This is a great experience and it helps them develop confidence for the future. They are very good skiers and have done a good job for us.”

In the J3 super-G, Harris finished in second place by less than one half of a second. In this event, Kirkwood’s Wehan placed fifth and HSF’s P.J. Bacon was 11th.

“Bryce won the training run in the super-G and made some incredible recoveries to come in fifth in the race,” said Kirkwood head coach Tim Kawcak in a prepared statement. “The kids really skied their hearts out.”

In the J4 super-G, Nick Daniels and Wil Prim of Squaw Valley both broke the top 10 with second and sixth-place finishes, respectively.

In the J4 GS, Prim finished first with a time of 1:56.06, followed by Baker in second at 1:56.81. In J4 slalom, Prim placed second and Baker was eighth. Prim was the overall (combined) J4 champion.

Amy Harris of Diamond Peak’s team won the girls’ J3 super-G and HSF’s O’Brien was eighth. Shelby Hawthorne of Kirkwood placed 15th.

In the boys’ J3 GS, Harris took first with a time of 1 minute, 48.50 seconds to Ganong’s 1:48.88, good for second place.

In the girls’ J3 slalom, Harris finished fourth and O’Brien was ninth and in J3 GS, Harris was first and O’Brien sixth.

In the J3 slalom, Harris was first with a time of 1:33.52 and Ganong placed third with a time of 1:35.42.

In J1-2 at Mammoth March 18-23, HSF’s Danny Lear took the silver medal in the downhill event, and teammate Chris Little was fourth. HSF’s Chris McKean was 13th.

McKean got the bronze in slalom.

“For us to have three guys in the top 15, it’s really strong,” Dufty noted. “In slalom, the boys were doing really well, but only Chris came down and finished. He started in 42nd and finished third, which was exceptional. We had great representation at J1-2.”

In addition to Marty Harris, other Whistler Cup participants from Tahoe include Amy Harris and Prim.