Reaching new ‘Hights’: Elena wins |

Reaching new ‘Hights’: Elena wins

Steve Yingling

The past few weeks of summer have allowed 16-year-old Zephyr Cove snowboarder Elena Hight to see and do some things that just aren’t possible in her tiny mountain community.

While competing and training Down Under, Hight had some unique up-close encounters with kangaroos, who were bouncing around the countryside like rabbits. Hight’s adventurous side also emerged as she gave surfing a shot for the first time.

“I picked it up a little where I was getting up and riding some waves. I wouldn’t say I was good by any means. But it’s so fun. I’d love to do it more and hopefuly I’ll get the chance,” Hight said.

Oh, by the way, Hight also collected her first professional snowboarding victories in Australia.

“It wasn’t something I was expecting or anything. It was cool to come out with something,” Hight said. “Winning made the trip better.”

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With Hannah Teter, Kelly Clark and Tricia Byrnes to contend with on a regular basis, the teenage halfpipe star in the making has been an overachiever every time she steps on the podium. Even so, her top-three performances are becoming routine.

Her three chummy nemeses were on a different continent last weekend, and Hight took advantage by winning her first professional titles at the Garnier Fructis Australian Open in Pershier Blue.

Other top Americans, Europeans and New Zealand competitors were present, so Hight needed to perform at a high level. She even even incorporated the Cab 7 into her halfpipe routine, having just learned the trick in New Zealand. Hight finished ahead of Switzerland’s Miriam Marbach and Japan’s Akiko Miwa in the halfpipe and then accomplished something she hadn’t since her days of ruling United States Amateur Snowboarding Asssociation contests – top the podium in a slopestyle event.

Each victory was worth 4,000 Australian dollars or $6,000 total in her homeland. Usually her winnings go toward covering expenses, but Hight longed to do what comes natural for someone her age.

“I wanted to go shopping in Sydney, but I was on a trip with nine guys (from my Burton team) and shopping didn’t go over that well,” she said.

Hight started the trip with a pair of fifth-place finishes at the 686 Middle Earth Superpipe Championships in Snow Park, New Zealand.

Hight will spend the next few months catching up on her independent studies. Now the equivalent of a high school junior, Hight has roughly four months out of the year to complete what is expected of public school students in nine months.

But the lure of the Winter Games in Torino, Italy, could serve as a major diversion from Hight’s studies. The five-event Grand Prix series will determine the three or four female halfpipe riders who will represent the United States. With Hight coming on strong, there is a realistic chance that she could compete in her first Olympic Games in February.

“Everyone is going to be definitely throwing down their best … there’s definitely no holding back at all this year,” Hight said. “And it’s definitely nice to know that we have a few chances (to qualify).”

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