Gunning for the national team: HSSF’s Barnwell shines at USSA performance camp |

Gunning for the national team: HSSF’s Barnwell shines at USSA performance camp

Tribune staff report
Gunnar Barnwell slides down the hill in the giant slalom last Saturday at Sugar Bowl during USSA performance camp. He finished second in the event by a tenth of a second.
Courtesy Mike Staudenmayer |

NORDEN, Calif. — Gunnar Barnwell wrapped up an impressive four days of skiing at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort last weekend, competing in four events and finding himself on the podium three out of the four days. Those results at the USSA U-14 performance camp helped him rack up a point total that put him in second-place overall after the four-day event.

“Moving from the top 10 in the Far West Northern Series to being the second-best skier in the entire west is a big accomplishment,” Heavenly U-14 head coach Jim Hein said.

After just missing the podium in Super G slalom last Thursday, Barnwell missed taking first in giant slalom last Friday by a tenth of a second. His third-place finish in slalom Sunday put him several seconds in front of the rest of the field.

“Saturday’s slalom was finally to Heavenly’s ski team’s advantage” HSSF alpine director Kyle Kratch said. “We are used to skiing slush on ice — especially skiing the bottom of World Cup run — and Gunnar thrives in those conditions. Clearly his odds of a podium increased when his coach set the second-run slalom.”

The course set by Hein proved very challenging and difficult, which pleased Darryl Whitaker — the Western Region Youth Coordinator for the U.S. Ski Team was on hand for the four days scouting talent from the west for possible national team selection for the U-14 boys. With some controversy about the winner of the slalom possibly straddling the last hairpin, the call was left up to Whitaker — and his decision gave the overall series win to a skier from Mammoth Mountain over Barnwell.

“This is all about learning how to compete and improving all of your abilities — including being a gracious winner and loser,” HSSF program director Noel Dufty said. “To make the national team, the athletes must be trainable, teachable and coachable. We are about taking this raw talent and converting it into mature young adults that can function properly at a level that will bring pride to our foundation and community.”

“With local ski legends like Darren Ralves providing speed training to this elite field of young skiers, U.S. Ski Team staff and coaches were on hand with Far West coaches getting the opportunity each day to provide coaching to kids they may only see in the championships,” Kratch added. “This was an excellent opportunity for our young racer Gunnar, who was our only selection from HSSF, to receive amazing training over the last four days.”

This performance camp is all about assessing how far athletes have come in their quest to be professionals, so they are assessed on the Alpine Training System (ATS) Matrix and placed somewhere between phases four and five on the matrix — phase six is the highest achievement (World Class Performance), usually accomplished by 17-year-old boys that participate in 55 races a year with at least a 155 days of skiing or a one-to-three race to ski day ratio. Heavenly’s skiers currently participate with the one-to-five ratio and more than 100 days of skiing per year.

SkillsQuest is now a cornerstone of the ATS program, and was given to Heavenly’s competitors at the event to check their preparedness. The most valuable piece of equipment to the young skiers were watches — to be on time and having the right equipment information.

The final day was made up of SkillsQuest and a head-to-head dual slalom where Barnwell was runner-up, finishing second to Squaw Valley’s Drew Wingard. The top boys finisher was defeated by the fastest skier of the event — Sugar Bowl’s Alice Robinson, a transplant from New Zealand that has been pursuing her own endless winter.

Tamara McKinney, a legend in women’s ski racing who won four World Cup season titles — most notably the 1983 overall crown — presented final awards. She was the only American woman to hold that distinction for a quarter-century, until Lindsey Vonn matched the feat in 2008. McKinney provided the athletes with closing remarks giving them advice toward their national team selection goals.

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