Minnesota racers master Howelsen
March 15, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Buck Hill is a small Minnesota ski hill 25 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, with 262 feet of vertical that for a ski racer goes by in a flash.
There's only room for a slalom run — no giant slalom, and certainly not for downhill or super-G training — but the athletes of Buck Hill wear out that slalom run, weaving between tightly set gates 20 seconds at a time.
"We train slalom every day, every day at Buck," Buck Hill racer Louis Nguyen said. "That's the only thing we train there. It's pretty small, and we have a rope tow so you get about 20 or 25 runs in a night."
Guided by 88-year-old National Ski Hall of Fame Coach Erich Sailer, the Buck Hill program has produced champions, none more notable than Lindsey Vonn.
Saturday, all that slalom work paid off for another generation of Minnesota racers as skiers from the club dominated the men's slalom competition at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, the final event of the Rocky/Central U16 Regional Championships.
Nguyen slid into first place, screaming and pumping his fists as his time — 1 minute, 29.40 seconds in two runs — was announced. Jack Lindsay was second in 1:30.67 and Tommy Anderson third in 1:30.94.
"Our coach, he's the master," Nguyen said. "He can really get us going, and he perfects our techniques."
They needed perfection Saturday on a course that proved too rugged for a tremendous group of athletes. It ate up 20 boys on the second run alone after claiming 11 on the first run. In total, 36 percent of the competitive field.
It proved as cruel to local racers as it was to those who traveled from far-away ski hills. Andrew McCawley had the top Steamboat time in 12th place, and Jett Seymour was right on his heels, in 13th.
River Radamus learned to ski on Howelsen as a young boy in Steamboat Springs, when his parents were coaches with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. He proved the class of the week, winning the overall championship thanks to wins in the super-G and giant slalom and a second-place finish in downhill.
His family — one of the first families of U.S. ski racing — moved from Steamboat Springs before Radamus' memories of the town solidified, and he now races for the U.S. Ski Team Academy.
On Saturday his old training ground threw even him for a loop, and after a wobbly, seat-of-his-pants second run, he front-flipped over the finish line, simply happy to be finished. He ended up in 35th place.
The week's top women's skier, Storm Klomhaus, didn't have the same issues, and she capped a brilliant run through the four Steamboat competitions. She won her race with a time of 1:27:86, a whopping three seconds ahead of the field. She easily was the overall women's champ.
Clara Hathorne was second Saturday in 1:30.86 and Galena Wardle was third in 1:32.20, the trio wrapping up another sweep of the podium, this one for the U.S. Ski Team Training Academy.
Steamboat's top finisher was Lauren Chavez, who wrapped up a strong week of her own with a ninth-place finish.
That bumped her to eighth overall for the week.
"It was a rough start, and in the downhill I had some mistakes, but it turned out to be a great week," Chavez said. "I found something in myself this week that I hadn't found the rest of the season."
Steamboat had two other finishers right behind Chavez. Logan Sankey was 10th and Jazlyn Lynch 11th.
The teams for the upcoming U16 National Championships in Park City were announced after the competition, and Seymour made the cut for Steamboat on the boys side.
Klomhaus, Hathorne and Wardle with the Training Academy made it, along with Lucia Bailey, Jennie Symons, Jessica McMurtry and Nellie Rose Talbot, of Vail; Hanna Mass and Anna Patterson, of Aspen; Madeleine Dekko and Kaitlyn Vesterstein, of Buck Hill, Juliana Damberg, of Afton Alps and Riley Whitney, of the Madison Alpine Race Team.
For the men, Radamus led the way. Vail landed five athletes on the team: Paul Cuthbertson, Jack Keane, Ryan Collins, Bridger Gile and Colby Lange. Buck Hill had three with Nguyen, Lindsay and Anderson and Aspen had two in Tristan Lane and Cooper Cornelius. Loveland also had a racer, Kyle Negomir.