A glimpse of the future at the Keystone Freestyle Classic
KEYSTONE — Keystone’s Go Devil run on Dercum Mountain was more time machine than freestyle course at Sunday’s Keystone Freestyle Classic. Team Summit coaches and team members gave a nod to old-fashioned hard work by creating the course themselves after school and on weekends, but judges and spectators caught a glimpse of the future among the three top female finishers. They were all J3s (ages 13-14), and the youngest skiers in the competition. Top honors at the USAA Rocky Mountain Division event went to Vail’s Heidi Kloser, while Team Summit’s Mikaela Matthews finished second. Vail’s Kristi Waring completed the young field in third. Team Summit’s John Eaton led the local guys by finishing second, behind only Kevin Hanian of CU Boulder.Chris Carson, Team Summit’s junior programs director, was impressed by the degree of difficulty among the younger women.
“The U.S. Ski Team is going to continue to be strong because of theseyoung skiers,” he said. With Team Summit J3s Matthews and Paige Eggebrecht capable of backflips, the future is already in Summit County. The Nor-Am competition in Park City, Utah, was held at the same time as the Classic, and the skiiers who did not qualify in last weekend’s Nor-Am selections brought their freestyle skills to Keystone.Matthews was the exception to this. She earned a spot on the Nor-Am Tour, but she passed on the national competition for a chance to ski at home. “Nor-Am would be a great experience but it’s nice to come home and relax a little bit,” Matthews said. “I’m just going to work on getting some more points for the national points list (to qualify for Junior Olympics).” Carson agreed with Matthews’ decision. “She has phenomenal balance and stays square with the fall lines, but she’s still really young,” he said.
Fresh talent like Matthews met its match on the Classic’s five-judge,two-jump course on Sunday. The 30-degree pitch was three to five degrees steeper than the usual freestyle course, and landings were longer than usual. This required skiiers to be more forward on their skis and recover quickly through a long line of moguls in the final section of the course.Team Summit’s 13th-place finisher Bobby Brown said the Classic’s course is one of his favorites because he likes the jumps. He landed a “heli meat grab” and a backflip on Sunday. Like many other competitors, he said the steepness of the second jump was hard to deal with.”I’m going to focus on slopestyle so I can nail that stuff,” he said.Most of Team Summit’s top women were in Park City on Sunday, but those who stayed in the county represented the team well. Eggebrecht joined Matthews in the top eight with a sixth-place finish, completing what Carson called “the best day for her so far.” Tierney Brown and Alison Johnston went back-to-back in 23rd and 24th places, respectively. Carson said this competition, like the skiers in it, was a build-up for things to come. “We’re focusing on the basics here,” he said.
In keeping with the early season attitude, there were no cuts for Sunday’s second round. The uniqueness of the course, however, prompted many skiers to change their techniques. Carson said it looked like more people were skiing top to bottom as they became comfortable with the course. Brandon Denker, eighth-place male finisher for Team Summit, learned from his first run’s mistakes.”The first run was a little rough,” he said. “But on the second run I stayed direct with it. I cleaned it up in the air and had a really great run.”Behind Eaton and Brown, Team Summit’s Louis Cirillo and Michael DeGrandis created a strong hometown showing by finishing in the top 16. J3 males Lee Hodson and Lance LiPuma took 32nd and 39th place, respectively, representing the younger members of the Team Summit men’s team.At 13, LiPuma summed up the early season aspect of the event well. “You have to decide if you’re going to the park or to the moguls,” he said. “It’s about spending time wisely.”
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