South Tahoe snowboarder finishes first in nationals |

South Tahoe snowboarder finishes first in nationals

Michael Traum

South Shore amateur snowboarder Jill Preston made the most of her first year on the U.S. Junior National team.

The 16-year-old finished first overall in the youth women’s (J2) category at the U.S. Junior Nationals March 23-29 at Big Bear and Snow Summit in Southern California. Twenty-two girls competed in the category.

In warm, slushy conditions with dirt showing in spots, Preston posted a second in the halfpipe, fifth in slopestyle, second in slalom and seventh in giant slalom.

Even with the super outing, Preston, who was third overall last year, said she could have improved her performance.

“I thought I could do better. I went super slow when I knew it was going to be slushy. I didn’t think I’d be first overall,” said the snowboarder, who earned a place on the 1997-98 team and a berth in next year’s championships.

Like many other racers, Preston was perplexed by the snow conditions. With her competitors trying a variety of methods, she finally chose to strip her board with base cleaner, thus making it less likely to collect dirt. It worked, as her slalom mark was second among all age groups.

“I haven’t been doing a lot of training, especially in the halfpipe. And I never train GS or slalom – just do it in competition,” said Preston, who has boarded for five years and hopes to qualify for the 2002 Olympics. “I freeride a lot and just go fast down the mountain.”

The high school sophomore, who is sponsored by Burton Snowboards, Anarchy Eyewear and Betty Rides Clothing, also traveled to Finland March 8-19 for the Junior Worlds. In sub-freezing conditions, she finished 10th overall in the combined for her age group, with a 16th in the halfpipe and 18th slalom.

With the season coming to an end, Preston will ride in the Boarding for Breast Cancer benefit April 19 at Sierra-at-Tahoe and attend the Burton Snowboard Camp at Mount Hood, Ore., later this year.

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