After a practical rain-out two years ago, the weatherman smiled on Hemlock mountain this past weekend, with three dry, warm days, including lots of sun to rev up the 38 ladies and 54 men racers in the U14 category.
Friday dawned clear and cool, with the race hill set up smooth and firm. Cypress' Rob Lahti set a flowing GS which would test the racers technique and edge sharpening skills. WMSC's Mollie Jepsen showed the way with an error-free, aggressive run to take top spot. Teammate Katie Fleckenstein joined Mollie on the podium, 0.04 seconds back, while Grouse Tyee Kristina Natalenko claimed third. WMSC's Anna Gosney, Ella Renzoni and Sierra King all cracked the top 10. "I knew the course was going to be difficult, given the conditions, but I took that challenge head on and skied the way I know how to ski." Said Jepsen.
The men's race used the same course. WMSC's Kyle Alexander put down the power to claim victory ahead of teammate Kasper Woolley by 0.65s. Grouse Tyee Andrew Lee skied an edge of disaster run to edge Whistler's Finn Iles by 0.03s for the final podium spot. Whistler's Alexander Valentin, Masashi Tsutsumi, Asher Jordan and Griffin Smith crowded into the top 10. Kyle offered his thoughts on his second consecutive GS win of the season: "The snow was nice and hard and my run felt good. I was happy with my result".
Saturday was cool and clear with the men scheduled for two back-to-back slalom races on a rock-hard piste.
Kasper Woolley led a WMSC podium sweep, followed by Finn Iles and Kyle Alexander. WMSC's Masashi Tsutsumi and Davis Bonsall-Jevning rounded out the top five, with teammates Griffin Smith, Asher Jordan and Alexander Valentin also in the top 10.
The second SL race once again saw Kasper and Finn dominate the standings with over a one second gap on the rest of the field. Kyle Alexander was scored a perfect 10 by the judges for his swan-dive exit mid course. Griffin Smith posted a season best fourth, Asher Jordan fifth, Davis Bonsall-Jevning seventh, Myles Kowalczyk eighth, and Niko Filipovic in ninth rounded out the top 10 for WMSC.
Kasper: "In the first run on Saturday I had a very clean run. I wanted to do the same thing on my second run. I'm really happy to win both races. The day was just perfect!"
Next up on the SL race hill were the ladies. The snow had softened considerably compared to the men's morning races, but with an hour of mandatory ski cross training as a warm-up for the afternoon SL races, the ladies were keen to hit some gates.
WMSC coach Andreas Epp set a beautiful rhythmic course for the ladies to test their carving and cross-blocking skills. Grouse Tyee's Kristina Natalenko captured top spot on the podium with an aggressive, risk-taking run. WMSC's Anna Gosney grabbed silver, with Katie Fleckenstein claimed the final podium spot. Nicole Mah, Ella Renzoni, Mollie Jepsen and Lucie Turner rounded out the top 10 for WMSC.
After a quick clean-up sideslip, race two was ready to go. Deeper ruts and course familiarity led to some increased risk taking by the ladies and there was some great athletic skiing with dramatic recoveries as the race line was tested. Kristina Natalenko bagged the race followed closely by Mollie Jepsen, Ella Renzoni and "Straightee becomes latee" Katie Fleckenstein, all within 0.3s. Nicole Mah, Anna Gosney and Alissa Wong bagged top 10 finishes as well.
Sunday heralded the focus of the entire weekend, the SX race. The kids were paired up based on National ranking points, and times were based upon the last of the pair over the line.
There were numerous drafting strategies tested in the morning training, and a general festival atmosphere settled in over the group ahead of the 11 a.m. start. With a top speed reported at 36kph, the group of rippers were searching for speed and pressing the backs of all of the course's rollers.
Katie Fleckenstein(WMSC) and Kristina Natalenko (Grouse) paired up to take the ladies "race", followed by WMSC's Alissa Wong paired with Grouse's Lucia Plunkett. WMSC's Mollie Jepsen and Nicole Mah captured third, 0.04 ahead of Anna Gosney and Ella Renzoni. Lucy Turner paired up with Grouse's Frances MacDonald to nab fifth spot on the 22 second course.
Katie offered: "Compared to the GS and SL races, the vibe was pretty relaxed at the start of the SX. Kristina and I experimented with several strategies in training, but in the end it was 'tuck and go'."
The men's race followed, with WMSC's Kasper Woolley and Finn Iles displaying perfect "berm turning" technique for the win. Kyle Alexander teamed up with Grouse's Andrew Lee for second. WMSC's Dawson Yates and Niko Filipovic skied a perfect run to capture the final podium spot. Masashi Tsutsumi paired up with Grouse's Christian Callaghan for fourth with WMSC's Asher Jordan and Alexander Valentin taking fifth spot.
— Submitted by the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.