Hickey makes nationals
Heavenly Ski Foundation bump skier Ryan Hickey made the most of his second chance, placing fifth at the National Freestyle Qualifiers on Saturday in Bogus Basin, Idaho, to earn his first trip to the national championships.
“I kept skiing my own run and trying to advance, but it finally got to me when my coaches came up to me and told me that I had qualified,” said Hickey, who knew he was in when he made the round of 16. “I was totally stoked.”
Hickey didn’t get down on himself after finishing 39th with a respectable 23.73 score in singles competition.
“I get kind of tensed up in singles and I’m more relaxed and have more fun in duals,” said Hickey, who was second a week earlier at the U.S. Junior Nationals. “I seem to like it more, the speed and the kicking the other guy’s butt.”
His Heavenly coach, Jere Crawford, said the event emphasizes Hickey’s natural abilities.
“He stays really calm, and a lot of times a natural athlete does well because you have to make adjustments,” Crawford said. “Sometimes you have to speed up, ease back, or do a more a difficult jump if you’re behind or ease back to do a simpler jump.”
The pressure he puts on competitors has strengthened his winning formula.
“Ryan has a relaxed attitude in the start area but explodes out of the gate, putting immediate pressure on the other skier,” Crawford said. “He’s very fast, and speed is a lot of it in duals.”
The 17-year-old Hickey won three duals to advance to the round of eight. Eventual winner Michael Morse ended Hickey’s hot run through the bracket with a narrow win in the quarterfinals.
With airfare to nationals in his pocket, Hickey doesn’t believe he’ll make the trip to Maine to check out the intense scenery. He feels his confidence and skiing are where it should be compete against the country’s best bump skiers.
“That $2,500 first prize will get me fired up,” Hickey said. “I can do more. The next goal is obviously to make the U.S. Ski Team, but this is my best year by far.”
With Hickey qualifying, the South Tahoe High junior bumped up the South Lake Tahoe nationals contingent to five, including defending single moguls champion Travis Cabral.
Nationals start Thursday with the acro semifinals and conclude Sunday with dual moguls in Sunday River.
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