Team Summit’s Rachael DesRochers faces World Cup vets at Copper NorAms | SummitDaily.com

Team Summit’s Rachael DesRochers faces World Cup vets at Copper NorAms

Peter Alexander
Special to the Daily

Team Summit's Rachael DesRochers rounds a gate during the NorAm Cup giant slalom at Copper Mountain on Dec. 2. DesRochers took 20th on Dec. 2, the highest for any American competitor with no U.S. Ski Team experience.

Amid a field stacked with athletes accustomed to charging the hill at breakneck speeds, the women of Team Summit Colorado got an opportunity to see how they compare to some of the best in the world during the NorAm Cup slalom and giant slalom races at Copper Mountain.

Women from 13 countries took to Rosi's race arena from Dec. 2-3 to test their mettle on a steep, firm and fast track for two GS races — otherwise known as four runs of 80-plus seconds going as hard as they can. The effort is comparable to running a 100-yard dash for over a minute, four times total.

When racing wrapped up, Marie-Michele Gagnon, a Canadian World Cup veteran, swept the top of the women's GS podium with wins on both days. The 26-year-old made her World Cup debut in December 2008 and competed in slalom and GS at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. She took her first World Cup podium in March 2012 with a third-place finish in slalom at Are, Sweden.

Behind Gagnon on day one at the ProAms were two fellow Canadians, Mikaela Tommy in second and Candace Crawford in third. Day two saw Crawford move up a place to finish second behind Gagnon, while Katerina Paulathova, of the Czech Republic, placed third.

But international veterans didn't dominate the field. Also at the NorAms were several Team Summit athletes: Rachael DesRochers, Megan McGrew, Jordan Watts, Kayo Denda and Sarah Schleper, a Team Summit coach and former U.S. Ski Team athlete who's now representing Mexico on the World Cup circuit.

Leading the charge for the Team Summit women on both days was DesRochers. The 19-year-old took 20th on Dec. 2 and 26th on Dec. 3.

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"It's a learning experience," DesRochers said when asked what it is like to be in a field with all the World Cup athletes. "I came into these races pretty confident, so my first day was really good."

DesRochers finished 20th in the first race. She was the only American woman in the top-30 with no experience on the U.S. Ski Team.

"We had great conditions and weather for the women," Team Summit Alpine director Greg Needell said. "We had some great results on a very long hill with a really difficult section at the bottom. The World Cup ladies have a big advantage over the rest of the field. They are used to this kind of challenge."

But, Needell believes it's important that his young athletes get exposed to high-level talent during the season.

"They get to know where they fit in with the rest of the world," Needell said.

"It's been a really good two days for our team here," Team Summit coach Crawford Pierce said. "It's important for our athletes with high aspirations to compete against such a talented field. Within our age group, as juniors, we are really competitive.

NorAm Cup women’s GS

Dec. 2

1. Marie-Michele Gagnon, Canada — 2:26.03

2. Mikaela Tommy, Canada — 2:27.25

3. Candace Crawford, Canada — 2:28.12

20. Rachael DesRochers, USA (Team Summit) — 2:32.63

26. Saraha Schleper, USA (Team Summit) — 2:34.24

41. Kayo Denda, Japan (Team Summit) — 2:39.68

55. Megan McGrew, USA (Team Summit) — 2:44.51

Jordan Watts, USA (Team Summit) — DNF, first run

Dec. 3

1. Marie-Michele Gagnon, Canada — 2:27.61

2. Candace Crawford, Canada — 2:28.25

3. Katerina Paulathova, Czech Republic — 2:29.84

26. Rachael DesRochers, USA (Team Summit) — 2:35.44

36. Kayo Denda, Japan (Team Summit) — 2:39.78

Megan McGrew, USA (Team Summit) — DNF, first run

Jordan Watts, USA (Team Summit) — DNF, first run