Locals dominate podium in NorAm comp at Arapahoe Basin
summit daily news
Summit County, Co Colorado
ARAPAHOE BASIN ” Over the past few months, 17-year-old Mikaela Matthews helped to build the moguls run set up on Slalom Slope at Arapahoe Basin. Along with her Team Summit coaches and teammates, she dug snow, hand-built jumps and refined the bumps.
And after all the work put into making the course, Matthews officially took ownership of it on Wednesday.
On the first day of the FIS North American Freestyle competition at The Legend, Matthews threw down a fast and high-flying finals run to claim her first-ever Nor Am Tour title.
“It’s just amazing,” a teary-eyed Matthews said afterward. “I haven’t had the best start to the season, so far. I’ve dropped way down on the points list. But this feels so good, I mean, I’m crying.”
Matthews, from Frisco, wasn’t the only Summit County native to defend their home turf, as Whitney Henceroth, also a Team Summit member, came in third.
“It was kind of a big deal,” Henceroth, 19, said of having such a major event on her home hill. “I was more nervous than I’ve ever been.
” … (Our finishes) were pretty impressive, I’m proud of us.”
Laurel Shanley made it an all-American podium by finishing in second-place.
Snow swirled around the course all day, making visibility for skiers pretty difficult.
On the men’s side of the competition, Shane Cordeau of Park City, Utah, changed up his routine in order to make it down the course in one piece.
“My coaches at the top were telling me that there’d been a lot of crashes,” Cordeau said. ” … If I just maintained control the whole way down the course, I’d be in the top six. That’s what you need to go for, and whatever happens in your run happens.”
The cautious strategy ” not to mention pulling a back full and a backflip iron cross on the two jumps ” led the 22-year-old to the top of the podium.
“I hadn’t made it down the course (in practice) until today,” Cordeau said. “So, I really didn’t have any expectations. This is great.”
Tanner Warren and Jeremy Cota flanked Cordeau on the podium, finishing in second and third, respectively. Summit County’s Justin Henceroth, Whitney’s brother, finished in 19th.
But the day belonged to the female members of Team Summit.
After the first run of the day, Henceroth was in third place heading into the finals, with Matthews close behind in sixth.
Then Matthews pulled out one of her best runs of the season.
“On the second run, I knew I had to step it up, so I did,” she said.
Matthews hit a double twister spread off the first air and pulled a back tuck on the bottom jump, all while blistering past the pace time for the course.
“Going into the bottom air, I don’t know, I was like going really fast but I just had to go with it,” Matthews said. “I normally don’t have that much speed in my flip but I didn’t have a choice.”
She landed it and, after putting up a score of 22.28, had to wait out the final five competitors.
No one could catch her, though, as Henceroth scored a 20.81.
Chris Carson, one of Matthews’ longtime coaches at Team Summit, couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride in watching one of his skiers win such a big title.
“She’s been skiing with us for a long time, since she was 8,” Carson said. “It’s been a fun journey to see her come from the junior level up through the NorAm level and getting ready to make the U.S. Team.”
The top-two finishers from the season-long NorAm Tour receive an invitation to ski for the U.S. Ski Team. Skiers can also qualify through the National Championship in about a month.
Henceroth was near the top of the point standings heading into Wednesday, and, with her and Matthews having a big day, both skiers look to have a chance to finish high enough to earn that invite.
The FIS NorAm Freestyle competition continues today at A-Basin, beginning at 10 a.m. Finals are scheduled to start at 2 p.m.
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