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Kowalczyk hits top 10 at U19 nationals

B.C. team's Kirshenblatt takes downhill win



Max Kirshenblatt was both speedy and stealthy at the U19 SportChek Canadian Championships at Nakiska, Alta.

The 18-year-old started the week with a downhill win on March 1, was fourth overall (third among U19s) in a second downhill race the next day, and took another fourth-place finish in the March 5 slalom.

In his win, the B.C. Team member and Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) grad edged out fellow WMSC alumnus Kyle Alexander in a thrilling race. Racers older than 19 are allowed to compete, and Kirshenblatt was still tops, edging another Whistlerite, Brodie Seger, by one-hundredth of a second.

"It was a pretty sweet race day out there today. I woke up this morning feeling good and was able to transfer that into my race run. It was fun to battle it out with Kyle and the rest of the field," Kirshenblatt, 18, told the BC Alpine website on March 1.

As well, Alexander emerged as the U19 champion while placing fifth overall in the super-G. Asher Jordan, meanwhile, was third among U19s and seventh overall.

"Great day of racing today, course crew did a good job getting the race off despite some not so great conditions. I went into today with confidence and it paid off," Alexander told the site.

Another strong finisher was Myles Kowalczyk, who hit the top 10 with a ninth-place showing in the second downhill race. The 16-year-old rose 40 spots after taking 49th in the opening race.

"It started off kind of rough with the downhill training. I was going a lot slower than I knew I could ski but I didn't really get very frustrated and I kept a good mindset," he said.

With the course conditions shifting from one day to the next, Kowalczyk counted his blessings that they were favourable for him on the second day.

"I definitely got pretty good course conditions. I knew it was my last day of downhill and I didn't really have anything to lose so I skied my best and it worked out," he said. "The first day of downhill racing, by the time I went, it had snowed... On that track, because it's so flat and long, when there's fresh snow on the track, it really slows you down.

"The second day, when I went, it was really icy and that day was really windy. Some people would have gotten a worse wind and some people would have gotten a tailwind. I got a pretty good tailwind, so that helped me out for sure."

Kowalczyk also took 15th in the slalom and 21st in the super-G, but after some time off from the latter, was impressed with how he showed.

"I was pretty excited about the super-G because I hadn't skied super-G in about a month (beforehand)," he said. "I came in not really knowing what to expect. I wasn't really sure if I would be carrying momentum off the previous day's downhill or if I would start from square one again. I just skied pretty smoothly and kept a good line that day. I was pretty happy with that one."

To prepare for the event, Kowalczyk went east for just over a week to get accustomed to some different styles of snow.

"If it's not icy, it's really compact snow, so it's quite different from what I normally ski. I had been training with the Windermere Valley Ski Team (out of Panorama) for the week before the race... That really helped me coming into that race because I got some time in on the Alberta/Interior snow," he said.

Kowalczyk is now off to Red Mountain for BC Cup FIS races, will then head to Washington state's Mission Ridge for another event later this month, and will conclude his season with spring series here at home.

Kosta Petkovic, Jack Forsyth, Dawson Yates and Ella Renzoni also represented the club.

Full results are online at