Steamboat Springs Alpine snowboard racer Zachary Kay saved his best for last Sunday afternoon.
"Something just clicked, and my last two runs were by far my best two runs of the day," Kay said after the finals of the Race to the Cup parallel giant slalom at Howelsen Hill. "You can't ask for anything more than to finish strong like that."
Hometown riders dominated the finals of the first of two Race to the Cup events at Howelsen Hill this week.
Kay joined teammate Tyler Jewell in the finals. Justin Reiter and Vic Wild, from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, went head to head in the consolation finals for third and fourth places.
Kay qualified with the third fastest time but was able to survive the round of 16 against Garrett Sorteberg and the round of eight against Michael Lam-bert. He faced teammate Vic Wild in the semifinals. The two riders tied in the first run, but Kay took the second run.
"In my last two rounds against Tyler and Vic, we were just going for it, and that's the way it should be," Kay said.
Kay beat Jewell by four one-hundredths of a second in the first run, and then repeated the feat in the second Sunday afternoon to collect his first victory of the season. Jewell was a close second.
Reiter, who lost to Jewell in the semifinals, placed third after beating fourth-place finisher Wild in the consolations.
"It was a great day for our team and a great day of snowboard racing," Steamboat coach Thedo Remmelink said. "This was a very strong field, and there was some great riding on both the men's and women's side."
For Jewell, the event was a chance to get back to racing after a tumultuous week filled with controversy.
"I'm just happy to be out here today doing what I love," Jewell said. "The last two weeks have been really hard for me. It's just great to be home in Steamboat. Everyone on our team in Steamboat is just riding psychotically fast."
Shortly after Jewell was named to the team last week, he learned that 2002 Olympic bronze medallist Chris Klug was challenging the U.S. Ski Team's appointment.
Klug argued that the average of his results, a 15th and 16th, this season was better than Jewell's ninth and 24th place showings. However, in World Cup events, a weighted point system rewards athletes more for top finishes. The U.S. Ski Team selected Jewell based on his World Cup points and the court agreed with the decision, upholding Jewell's appointment late last week.
Remmelink said everybody, including Klug, knew how the system worked, and there was no doubt that Jewell's results this season had earned him an Olympic berth.
"It's been a big distraction," Jewell said. "But it's no longer a distraction, and I'm moving on."
The Race for the Cup is a NorAm event and featured many of the top riders from the United States and Canada. The second and final race of the series, a parallel slalom, is at 9:30 a.m. today at Howelsen Hill.
-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209or e-mail email@example.com