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J1’s find life at Mars


Leighton leads Whistler efforts, earns invitation to train with national team

Blowing snow and wind kept a crew of more than 40 volunteers busy for the Mars Canadian Junior Alpine Championships at Apex Mountain Resort last weekend, but they managed to get three of four events underway.

More than 120 J1 racers (age 15 and 16) showed up from as far away as Quebec to take part.

With more than 2,000 people lining the course to cheer on the racers, Whistler’s Alison Leighton, 16, won the super G by a large margin.

The second girl down the course, Leighton watched as more than 30 others failed to beat her time of one minute, 13.34 seconds.

In addition to her gold medal, the win gave Leighton a spot to train with the national team at a training camp at Sunshine Village in May.

"My goal today was to win, but I wasn’t entirely expecting to," said Leighton. "I feel relieved now that the first race is over and I’m really excited to be going to the Alpine Canada spring training camp. I think it will be such a good experience, I mean, I can learn more about my skiing and more about the sport with some of the top athletes and coaches around."

Lindsay Kraft of Vernon came the closest to Leighton but was still almost a full second back in 1:14.21. Kayla Birdgeneau of Alberta was third in 1:14.64. Whistler’s Kendall Benbow, who is on the B.C. Ski Team with Leighton, just missed the podium by 0.03 seconds.

Whistler’s Julia Murray, who is racing with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, was sixth overall.

Whistler’s Alix Browne-Munz was 17 th , Jillian McArthur 19 th and Shannon Smith 23 rd .

In the men’s race, the WMSC’s Matthew Holler was the top B.C. racer in fourth place. He was just a tenth of a second back of Toronto’s Tyler Nella with a time of 1:12.23. This is Holler’s first season as a J1.

The top two spots went to Quebec racers with Gabriel Lepine of St-Colomban taking the gold in 1:11.38, and Simon Mannella of Piedmont in second with a time of 1:11.65.

Also from the WMSC, Conrad Pridy was 21 st , Darren Chaddock 22 nd , Taylor Self 23 rd , Thomas Kasperkiewicz 31 st , and James-Douglas McLean 33 rd .

The second day of racing was called due to the weather, but the volunteers used the day well to get the giant slalom and slalom courses in shape.

In the women’s GS, Vernon’s Lindsay Kraft won both runs to post a combined time of 2:09.08. She finished more than a second ahead of Larisa Yurkiw of Ontario’s time of 2:10.11. Kayla Birdgeneau of Calgary was third in 2:11.08.

Whistler’s Alison Leighton, Julia Murray and Kendall Benbow were fourth through sixth respectively with times of 2:11.73, 2:12.64 and 2:13.59 respectively.

Whistler’s Jillian McArthur was also in the top-10, finishing 10 th with a time of 2:15.23.

The WMSC’s Shannon Smith was 21 st , Larissa-Paige Avery 24 th and Alix Browne-Munz 25 th .

Alberta’s Brett Haney completely dominated the men’s GS with a total time of 2:04.18 – a full five seconds ahead of Calgary’s Travis Dawson. Ontario’s Tyler Nella was third.

The WMSC’s Matthew Holler finished fourth once again, the only Whistler skier to finish in the top-15.

JD McLean finished 16 th , Conrad Pridy was 21 st , and Thomas Kasperkiewicz 40 th .

In the slalom on Sunday, Leighton was back on the podium with a bronze medal performance. Kayal Birdgeneau of Alberta and Larisa Yurkiw of Ontario took the top two spots with times of 1:24.04 and 1:24.24 respectively. Leighton’s time was 1:25.29.

Kendall Benbow was fourth.

The other WMSC skiers were close to the top-15. Larissa-Paige Avery was 17 th and Alix Browne-Munz 19 th overall.

The slalom also wrapped up the combined competition for the slalom and super G events, which went to Leighton for her gold and bronze performances. By combining her times in the super G and slalom, Leighton earned another gold.

Fifteen-year-old Alix Browne-Munz of the WMSC, who is in her first year as a FIS racer, also won the Most Improved award.

In the men’s slalom, Travis Dawson of Alberta took the gold, followed by Carl Gauthier-Tremblay of Quebec and Chris Barber of Ontario.

Conrad Pridy was the top Whistler racer in 19 th . Thomas Kasperkiewicz was 27 th , and JD McLean 30 th . Matthew Holler posted a DNF on his second run.

The Mars Canadian Junior Championships are new this season, providing a racing opportunity for kids just out of the K2 level, but who don’t have the experience to compete in the national Pontiac GMC Cup series.