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Heavenly Foundation alpine skiers race at Squaw Valley, Mammoth

Tribune staff report
HSSF skier Allison Mollin slides by a gate while racing giant slalom at Squaw Valley last weekend. Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo |

A lack of recent snow hasn’t stopped the starry-eyed determination of the Heavenly Foundation alpine ski team. The alpine program has attacked Squaw Valley over the last several weeks — including a North Series race at Motts last weekend.

“Schedule changes, race location shuffling and anxious youngsters are all part of teaching our young racers how to cope with life,” HSSF ski program director Noel Dufty said.

“We are really fortunate to have so much support from all of the family of Vail Corporation resorts,” added HSSF alpine director Kyle Kracht. “Really, the entire USSA Far West delegation as far East as the Rocky Mountain Division has been extremely helpful in making sure our athletes are able to train.”

Last week, Heavenly athletes had the chance to take part in a special opportunity. They were invited to help slip the course at the FIS World Cup Championships at Beaver Creek — an event that takes place in the U.S. roughly only once every 30 years.

With many race parents tuned into the exciting races and watching these events, it’s no wonder why these youngsters were so excited to compete in them. After seeing Travis Ganong win silver in the downhill in Beaver Creek, racers were able to train giant slalom with him the next day and watch him forerun the course they would be racing on.

For HSSF skiers, events like the one in Beaver Creek make them realize how blessed they are to live in such a magical place and experience these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Nowhere is that magic more evident than on the faces of the team’s youngest racers.

“We are really happy to have young energetic coaches like Justin Smaine coaching our U-10 and U-12 ski racers this year,” Kracht said.

This enthusiasm seems to be rubbing off on one of HSSF’s youngest racers, Kai Subith. Despite battling a cold, he made the podium again with a second-place finish in the U-10 age group on the first day before ending up seventh on the second day.

Also in the U-10 medals was Charlie Baker, who slid to an 11th-place finish Sunday in his first year skiing Far West. Eliana Dollar neared the top 30 by placing 38th on Saturday and 37th on Sunday.

Heavenly’s U-12 skiers also performed well on the challenging course. Allison Mollin finished in the top 20 both days, including a 16th-place finish Sunday in a field of 90 girls. On Saturday, Mollin moved up 11 spots on her second run after the coaching mantra of early edge pressure and aggressive skiing sank in. Etienne Dollar continued to show a lot of promise in his first season, finishing very close to the top 30 on both days.

Gunnar Barnwell continued his assault on the Far West march toward performance camp selection with two really strong finishes in giant slalom last weekend. With two solid times of 35 seconds, there was only a second that separated his 10th-place medal from a first-place finish.

On Sunday, Barnwell shocked most of the field with his fourth-place standing after run one, but quickly learned how different it is getting to run second verses second-to-last — he spent run two fighting chatters and ruts. With a second-run placing of 18th, he still landed on the podium with a seventh-place medal.

Jackie Oh delivered a great second run on her second day on Motts — she improved a full two seconds and moved up 25 places while finishing both races. Oh and Matt Schick struggled the first day with qualifications, but were both able to finish in the middle of the pack Sunday.

“I tried something I almost never do — giving a lot of instruction on race day,” coach Jim Hein said.

HSSF’s U-16 skiers struggled in the speed event in Mammoth Feb. 14-16 along with the team’s U-18 boys — neither team had a racer place in the coveted top 30. But Heavenly’s U-18 girls crushed it — Maia Bickert won a third-place medal, Michael Gardner took 24th and Mikaela Clothier finished 25th.


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