Y2ski: Heavenly Foundation athletes shine in year’s final race
None of the Heavenly Ski Foundation’s elite skiers wanted to be last in their last races of the century, and most were quick enough to avoid it.
Heavenly’s best J1 (age 17-18), J2 (age 15-16) and J3 (13-14) racers traveled to Boreal on the North Shore for a pair of open slaloms for the U.S. Ski Team’s Far West division. They returned with results coach Noel Dufty found encouraging.
“We’re going really well right now,” Dufty said.
After a seventh-place finish on Wednesday, Corky Novotny had an even better run on Thursday, to finish first, leading two teammmates, Jamie Hansen and Christie Higman, into the top 10.
In the men’s races, teammate Chris McKean rebounded from a crash Wednesday to post a career-best sixth on Thursday. The fields for both races, which numbered as high as 150, included some star power in the form of college-age racers.
“Some of these results are great,” Dufty said. “The girls are going well, too. They’re skiing to their potential, so they look like they’re going to have a good year, too.”
Novotny had Heavenly’s best finish of the week with her first-place result on Thursday. Hansen was third in the same race and Higman seventh after hiking the second run. Higman, though, was Heavenly’s top female racer on Wednesday, finishing fourth. Hansen was fifth and Novotny seventh, and a missed gate disqualified Diana Higman after a good first run. Sara Toutin of Sierra Nevada College was first in Wednesday’s race, edging North Shore racer and U.S. Development Team member April Mancuso.
On Wednesday, McKean came from the back of the pack to stand 13th after the first run. McKean hooked a gate, which cost him a promising result, but Ben Johnson was 12th, Christopher Little 13th and Danny Lear 14th. Teammate Sean Weatherston was 21st, to finish ahead of teammates Kyle Kracht, James Rastello, Jon Little, Andrew Glabek and Joey Suder.
McKean, though, would not make the same mistake on Thursday, and took sixth. Oliver Russell also recovered from a crash on Wednesday to take 15th on Thursday, leading teammate Cory Harris (19th) into the top 20. Johnson and Weatherston were among the top 30, and Kracht, Rastello and Suder followed in 55th, 67th and 74th, respectively. Reuben Kuruvila, of Vail, Colo., who races for the University of Nevada, was first on Thursday.
Heavenly’s racers entered the event with an eye on dropping points and improving their national rankings. By reducing points and moving toward the top of the rankings, racers can qualify for more prestigious race events.
The racers will have little downtime: Many of the elite girls will leave today for International Ski Federation (FIS) races in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Park City, Utah, while the boys leave Tuesday for FIS competition at Mount Bachelor, Ore.
“Hopefully, we get some similar results at the FIS races that we were getting with these races,” Dufty said.
The elite racers returned to action last week after a trip to the Jackson Hole Elite FIS Series races Dec. 12-17 in Jackson, Wyo. Hansen, Higman, Novotny and Amy Brehm traveled to Jackson Hole for the FIS races against Western Region and Rocky Mountain Division competition.
The Elite FIS Series kicked off with a pair of giant slalom races. Christie Higman fell in both and headed for the Nor Am Super Series events in Canada, where she rebounded to finish among the top 30 in giant slalom, but struggled in the slalom, falling in both. Meanwhile, Hansen was 21st and 30th between the two Jackson races, Brehm was 42nd, and Novotny missed gates in both races.
In the subsequent slaloms in Jackson Hole, Hansen finished ninth the first day and seventh the second, behind winner and World Cup vet Katerina Tichy of Canada. Novotny finished, placing 15th in the slalom.
In super-G, Hansen was 21st and 37th, Novotny missed gates, and Brehm was 40th.
Lean snow in the early season hasn’t kept Heavenly’s elite racers off the slopes. The skiers showed some of their potential, improving as they kicked off the season with Far West open races Dec. 4-5 at Boreal. Hansen was seventh in the first slalom, and Christie Higman 10th. Brehm was 17th, Kylese Zaiger 33rd and Diana Higman 42nd. In the second slalom, Hansen was fifth and Zaiger 24th, but all other Heavenly Foundation athletes fell.
In the first men’s race Dec. 4, McKean improved from 37th to 22nd, Russell 32nd to 28th, Harris 52nd to 35th, Johnson 50th to 40th, Weatherston five places to 56th, Kracht 135th to 82nd and Rastello 122nd to 110th. In the second men’s race on Dec. 5, Rastello was 11th, Johnson 47th, Weatherston 55th and Kracht 83rd.
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