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Flying High

Summit Daily/Brad OdekirkVails Toby Dawson practices some of his inverted airs at Arapahoe Basin recently during a morning training session. A three-time winner on the World Cup moguls circuit last season, Dawson is one of four members of the current U.S. Freestyle Ski A Team which graduated from the Team Summit freestyle program.
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SUMMIT COUNTY – U.S. Ski Team member David Babic stood on the side of a moguls course recently and watched Team Summit’s latest crop of young skiers do their thing at a training session at Arapahoe Basin.”These young guys are killing it,” said the three-time podium finisher on the World Cup circuit, including a victory at Airolo, Switzerland, in February. “It’s fun to watch them progress.” Babic was watching Team Summit skiers Justin Henceroth and Jordan Poyfair hit a small kicker in Humbug Gully. He was there working on training for his own upcoming World Cup season, but knows that this group could become the next wave of World Cup skiers. Babic knows this because he’s a graduate of Team Summit himself. In fact, he’s one of four moguls skiers on the U.S. Freestyle Ski A Team that came up through the Team Summit pipeline.The 2004 World Cup overall runner-up, Toby Dawson, 2002 overall champion Jeremy Bloom, and 2003 U.S. national champion Luke Westerlund all hail from the 15-year-old program founded by longtime local residents and coaches John Dowling and Scott Rawles.Between the four mogul specialists, they have more than 30 World Cup podium finishes, including five gold medals in 2004 alone – three for Dawson and one each for Bloom and Babic.

‘The place to be …'”This is pretty much the place to be,” said Babic about Team Summit’s success in feeding the national team. “You have some of the best coaches in the world. If you have that desire, they’re here to see you accomplish your goals.”Babic actually serves part-time as one of those coaches, as does Westerlund. When the pair is competing on the other side of the planet in World Cup events, Dowling – the head honcho – and his staff keep the engines of Team Summit running.”As a team, we have all these kids and athletes who come in and they know that we’re a serious program,” Dowling said. “They know we’ll do everything it takes to get kids to the highest level.” According to Rawles, who now coaches for the U.S. Ski Team, Team Summit’s evolution into one of the country’s best feeder programs started slowly, but then skyrocketed after Team Breckenridge’s Evan Dybvig won the overall World Cup title in 1996.”That kind of kick-started everything and cemented our national, if not international, reputation,” Rawles said. The program was founded in 1989 as part of Team Breckenridge. In 1999, Team Breck merged with the Summit County Winter Sports Club to become Team Summit, but the organization of the freestyle program remained more or less the same. When Team Summit was created, Dawson, Bloom and Westerlund had already passed through the program, and Babic was entering the third of his four years under Dowling.

The latest groupEarlier this week, seven of Team Summit’s up-and-coming skiers arrived at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah for Freestyle Frenzy 2005, where the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) is holding its U.S. Selections events.These competitions, which began Wednesday and continue through Sunday, are used to determine the fields for the 2004-2005 NorAm events, a series of competitions that serve as a stepping stone to national and World Cup events. Heather McPhie leads a contingent that also includes Poyfair, Kris Pepe, Mike Mead, Whitney Henceroth, Sarah Ruckriegle and Mallory Cleveland. Justin Henceroth also was expected to attend, but recently suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).Dowling expects most, if not all, of the skiers to qualify for NorAms.McPhie, meanwhile, will be aiming for a top-2 finish, which would give her a spot on the U.S. Ski Team roster to compete in the American dates of the World Cup. “My biggest goal is to go in there and lay down a good run for me,” said the 20-year-old Montana native. “I’ve been real close in the last year, so that’s obviously my goal. But I’ve also learned to ski for myself, which works a lot better.” Twice last season, McPhie missed a guaranteed berth onto the U.S. C Team by a single spot in competition.



She needed to win one event, but finished second, and in another, she needed to finish second – and did – but tied with another skier who won a tiebreaker. Naturally, Team Summit is expecting to do well at Selections. “Some of our skiers will be trying to beat national team skiers,” Dowling said. Not that this is anything new. After all, in a few years they could be the ones with targets on their backs. As Rawles puts it, this area is built around success on the slopes.”It’s what it’s about in Summit County – it’s skiing,” he said. “In other places it may be football or other things, but skiing is what we do here.” Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at rchittick@summitdaily.com.


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