Speedy Jenna Sheldon skis to 5th in downhill at Aspen US Junior Nationals
Local Alpine racer Jenna Sheldon finished in fifth place in the women’s downhill at U.S. Junior Nationals at Aspen Highlands on Sunday.
Sheldon’s time of 2 minutes and 21.91 seconds earned her the fifth place spot. She recovered from a tough start on her final run down the course to hit the line she and her coaches had talked about in previous days.
“Technically and tactically, my skiing really came together,” Sheldon said.
Sheldon said her goal over the several days of races in Aspen (at both nationals and junior national championships) was to put her best foot forward after a lack of events this season due to COVID-19. In Aspen, Sheldon was able to ski alongside and against some of the country’s best — athletes she’s idolized for their World Cup success racing for the stars and stripes, such as Laurenne Ross and Alice McKennis.
In these downhill races at Aspen Highlands, Sheldon said her main focus was to not take a straight and low line but rather get above the gates and finish her turns so she could accelerate more down the hill. Coached by Rob Burke of Loveland Ski Club, Sheldon analyzed video of her skiing as the athlete-coach duo picked out key spots during inspection.
Sheldon also credited Loveland ski tech Jermey De Long for his behind-the-scenes prep of her skis.
“He provides so much confidence just knowing I’m skiing on the best equipment prepared by the best technician in the sport,” Sheldon said. “The start at Aspen is pretty flat, so having fast skis and skating really hard is important.”
Sheldon’s performance at nationals capped an interesting year where highlights for her were Aspen speed week in January and racing for Karl Barth’s Summit High School team, for which she finished runner-up in both giant slalom and slalom.
Despite the pandemic, Sheldon said she feels her ski tactical decisions have improved a lot this year. Sheldon will conclude the season with two downhill races at Mammoth Mountain in California this weekend. Then come fall, she’ll rejoin the Summit High girls rugby team as a senior. (She is absent from the team’s spring season because of her skiing commitments.)
“I think the girls are playing great,” Sheldon said. “… Like I said about skiing, this season has been anything but normal and everyone has done a great job seizing the opportunities out in front of them and working hard to be successful. …There is a strong tradition to live up to, and I’m looking forward to upholding that with my teammates.”
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