Diamond Peak skiers nearly sweep U19 podium in Far West series
Diamond Peak may have a small Far West alpine ski team, but it is mighty.
Matthew Smallhouse swept all three events and teammate Gunnar Barnwell stood on the podium right behind him in the U19 division Friday and Saturday, Jan. 4-5, at the Minaret Challenge hosted by Mammoth Mountain.
The Minaret Challenge was the first in the Western Regional Qualifier series that sends the best 16- to 19-year-old men and women in the state to compete against the best in the West.
This next series, Jan. 10-15, at Big Sky in Montana, will pretty much determine the top 20 racers who will compete in Western Regional. From that four-day series the top three young men and women will be chosen to compete on the national team.
Smallhouse handily won the slalom and giant slalom events on Friday and again beat the field by nearly 3 seconds Saturday in another slalom race.
Smallhouse won races by margins of 3.35 seconds, 2.96 seconds and 1.61 seconds.
Barnwell earned two second-place finishes and grabbed a third place Friday in GS.
Luke Allen, who won a race the weekend before in the season opener, had to hike in his first slalom but still managed to have the fifth fastest time his second run.
Bad luck and bad conditions were just part of the challenges this race held in store for the trio this time around with Allen crashing in the GS and had a questionable disqualification Saturday on the first run of the second slalom on.
Smallhouse, Barnwell and Allen all trained together this past summer at Mt. Hood in Oregon with the goal of sweeping the podium together. They have competed together for 12 years.
The trio hopes to make the U.S. Development Alpine Ski Team and compete side by side with heroes like Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin.
With three podium finishes, Diamond Peak head coach Nico Monforte said Smallhouse and Barnwell are shoe-ins to reach regionals and Allen is right behind. The two also reached regionals the last two years.
Also for Diamond Peak, Brent Wolf and Marek Hlubucek both had a couple of top 20 finishes and have a chance to reach regionals with a few more consistent finishes.
Diamond Peak has also has U16 girls program that is faring well.
Jasmine Arrison finished second in slalom and, unfortunately, crashed in her other two races. One of those races was in blizzard conditions and coupled with her blinding speed resulted in a white out of her own with a DNF.
Rosemary Devre had a ninth-place finish in slalom and a top 15 also in slalom and unfortunately, she was disqualified in GS.
Sara Cole finished 19th in the GS and 20th in the Slalom.
“Great skiing by the whole group the last two days,” Conforte said. “Tough conditions and a packed schedule made for some challenging runs, but I’m happy to see everyone step up to the occasion.”