Norton reaches podium at Wild West; three South Shore skiers race for Diamond Peak in U-16 series opener
OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — The USSA Far West U-16 Junior Championships Qualifier Series, known as the Wild West Series, kicked off Friday, Jan. 8, with three days of racing at Squaw Valley Ski Resort. On Olympic Lady, a handful of South Shore skiers delivered strong performances highlighted by a pair of podium finishes from Payton Norton.
Norton, a sophomore at Whittell High that hails from Stateline, skied to a second-place finish for Diamond Peak Ski Team in the two-day slalom event. Norton negotiated the 140-meter pitch with the accuracy of a prizefighter landing punches — and just missed the decision.
Zephyr Cove’s Gunnar Barnwell was the second-best skier from Diamond Peak on Saturday, Jan. 9. The Whittell freshman finished 11th, missing the top 10 by only one-tenth of a second — on the first day of giant slalom, he skied to a 22nd-place finish.
South Tahoe High freshman Luke Allen finished five spots behind Barnwell in 27th place. Both Barnwell and Norton ski on the Warriors’ alpine team when not competing on the USSA Far West circuit; Allen skis for the Vikings.
“This is fantastic seeing so many of our local kids in a position to qualify for Junior Championships,” Diamond Peak coach Raquel Norton said. “I have been coaching some of these little knuckleheads since before they started kindergarten, including Payton, Nick, Luke, Sean, Katie and the youngest of the motley crew, Gunnar.”
The grueling 383-meter giant slalom course down Olympic Lady really took its toll on the men and women alike on Sunday, Jan. 10. Unlike in golf there is no ladies tee, so the males and females both ski the same course that is twice the distance of the slalom course and twice the speed.
“For the first of three series of qualifiers for this U16 group it was a fantastic outing,” Raquel Norton said. “It was great to have two open series races prior to this … it really gives you a great view of where some of these kids are heading based on their current goals.”
USSA Far West U-16 racing resumes Jan. 23 with two-day Open GS at Alpine Meadows. The next U-16 Junior Championships Qualifier will be held Jan. 29-31 at Northstar California.
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