2017-2018 championship season continues
March is championship time for ski racers of all ages. Along with championship competitions come year-end awards, both of which happened this week for members of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Team.
Mighty Mites Year End Awards honor top skiers
On Saturday, March 31 the MMSST Mighty Mite coaches, athletes and families gathered against the backdrop of Mammoth Mountain for a potluck lunch and Year End Awards presentation. The first awards given out honored Neko Morando, Kayla Murphy and Jack Wright as M.V. P. winners. Coaches Shaun Troy, Cameron Schwartzkopf, Sam Von Berg, Miranda Betts, Kaylee Cappello, and Lisa Hickson said they chose the three because they were, “always attentive and helpful to coach while looking out for and helping their teammates.”
The “Epic Crash” award went to Webber Meade-Sofield and Emily Sugimura. Sugimura was singled out because as one of her coaches told those in attendance, “we were headed down upper dry Creek and Emily was skiing with the upper group, charging hard and she hit a bit of a sticky spot. Her skis stuck in the snow and she double ejected, but she got up. She was kind of crying, but she had a big smile on her face and ripped the rest of the run.”
Sugimura was also one of three recipients of the “Hard Charger of the Year” award. Joining her were Lilly McConnell and Garrett Moberly. Hickson, Head Mighty Mite coach and spokesperson for the group noted that, “They’ve been really pushing it this year…and they show up on Wednesdays and go hard as well after their school day.”
Mather Koegler, Lucian Vadas, June Beeghly and Lauden Meade-Sofield were recognized as the “Most Improved Skiers” of the group. Hickson said “From the beginning of the season to now, they’ve (the Mighty Mites) all have done very well, leaps and bounds across the board, but some really stand out for making huge changes from day one.” First Hickson said, we “need to recognize a big change in Mather Koegler. He has really concentrated so much this year compared to last year…he’s been really focused. He has really changed his skiing for the better.”
She then noted that, Vadas and Beeghley “were both new to the team this year.” As she handed Vadas his certificate, she asked him, “Lucian, how do you feel now?” He responded with, “great. I used to be in a complete pizza and now I’m not.” Hickson continued with, “he has worked really hard. He is strong and powerful, but it really took paying attention and listening and being a great team player with coach Miranda.”
When it came to Beeghly, she said, “I’ve seen her mobility in the flats especially since the beginning of the season to now. She can tear across where she used to need a little push behind her.” Three Mighty Mites were honored with “Rookie of the Year” awards.
Before announcing the winners Hickson said, “on the team there are three sets of twins. These two are new this year. They do a lot of skiing, they travel over here to ski, before they ski with us for five hours and then they ski back to their home base. They have a long day. They always show up.” She then called up Neve and Flora Wheeler. Hickson said, the third recipient, Chase Casaw, who was not present, “has been an outstanding helper and just a great, great skier.”
The grand finale award Skier of the Year, “wraps up a lot of things,” explained Hickson. That honor went to Kaeden Dean for his, “excellent attendance, ripping, working hard, making big changes in his skiing.” He was there, “every powder day, every snow day, any day after school if he can make it.” As Dean took his award, Hickson jokingly said to him, “I think some days you sleep in your ski boots.”
Athletes and parents are shining stars at U12 Championships
The MMSST U12 team traveled to Squaw Valley March 29-April 1 for the U12 Championships. MMSST Director Carl Underkoffler reported on the event saying, “The weather was fantastic, conditions excellent for racing and our sister Alterra resort put on a great event.”
On Thursday both men and ladies raced GS with MMSST’s Piper Wilkison taking second behind Squaw Valley Ski Team’s Lylah Kelly. Wilkison led after the first run, with Kelly sitting behind in fourth, but it was a two run competition and in the second run Kelly had a blazing fast time that was 1.23 seconds ahead of all of the other girls, giving her a .54 second advantage over Wilkison to take the win. Two other Mammoth ladies took top 15 results with Maya Eisner earning 10th and Jenna Lynch in 15th. On the men’s side Greg Gazarian, who finished seventh was the sole Mammoth racer to land on the front page.
Friday, the action moved into super G the fastest of the weekend’s four disciplines. This time it was Eisner who was the top Mammoth racer for the ladies coming in seventh. Wilkison was 10th and Sierra Wight was 15th. Gazarian was again the only MMSST boy to crack the top 15 bracket finishing in 13th.
The quick paced slalom venue was on deck Saturday with some of the same Mammoth ladies coming out on top. Wilkison was fifth, Wight ninth and Skye Peterson was 12th. Gazarian continued his run for four top 15 finishes with an 11th place result, but on this day he was joined by teammate Tanner Knott in 15th.
Sunday, the final day of the championship series saw the racers compete in a head to head style format parallel GS. Wilkison, Lynch and Eisner added three more the top 10 finishes to their already impressive list. Wilkison climbed on the podium in second for her fourth top 10 finish of the championships. Lynch was fifth, and Eisner crossed the finish in sixth, earning her third top 10 result for the weekend.
However, they weren’t the only Mammoth racers to do well. Gazarian had his best finish of the event coming in first over Squaw’s Eric McCoy Hudson. In the tightly contested race Gazarian held the lead after the first run by .21 hundredths over Hudson, but in the second run he slipped to fifth. Hudson failed to put together a second run that could overtake Gazarain’s lead giving the MMSST racer the win by just .06 seconds and his fourth frontpage result of the U12 Championships.
The final awards went to the 2018 U12 Girls and Boys North Series Overall winners. Mammoth ladies Wilkison, Lynch and Le Francois earned trophies for fifth, ninth and 13th respectively, while Gazarian won seventh for the boys.
“We had great racing results, but what is more impressive is the skills test outcome,” revealed Underkoffler. “Our Mammoth girls placed five girls in the top ten. Piper Wilkison, Skye Peterson, Madeline LeFrancois, Elinor Crall and Sierra Wight. Our boys had Tanner Knott and Greg Gazarien in the top ten.” He then added, “The skills test outcome is proof that we are making great progress at developing athletes.”
Underkoffler had one final, personal item to report on. “We did have some stellar performances from athletes, but what impressed me the most was the kindness our parents showed towards an injured coach.” He continued saying, “Coach Stan (Vasily) suffered a knee injury while skiing to the start of the super G. Back at the lodge Nicole Freestone and Tina Gazarian were there to keep Stan comfortable. Back at home Pam (Lonza) sends out an email to parents and within three minutes plans where in place. Brent Truax drove Coach Stan to Carson City where he rendezvoused with Tom Cherry who turned back around and returned to Mammoth. While the road trip was in process Susan Dalian organized a sign up genius for meals for Stan.” Underkoffler stressed, “It’s this kind of support and kindness that separates our Mammoth team from others. One of the reasons we have good kids, we have good parents.”
Links to race results: http://www.live-timing.com/race2.php?r=188413, http://www.live-timing.com/race2.php?r=188412, http://www.live-timing.com/race2.php?r=188563, http://www.live-timing.com/race2.php?r=188575, http://www.live-timing.com/race2.php?r=188600, http://www.live-timing.com/race2.php?r=188599, http://www.live-timing.com/race2.php?r=188637, http://www.live-timing.com/race2.php?r=188632
Links to overall awards: http://fwskiing.us/sites/default/files/U12%20North%20Series%20Girls%20Standings%20FINALIZED.pdf
Stacey Cook and MMCF help Eastern Sierra students get on the hill
“I love this program and its ability to get kids active and outside, teach lessons through sport, and allow them to appreciate our beautiful environment that we live in.” Stacey Cook
Local ski racer Stacey Cook is best known in Mammoth for being a long time member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team and a four-time Olympian. What some may not know is Cook is a CLIF BAR® sponsored athlete and she serves as the treasurer on the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation.
Cook is passionate about giving back to her ski community making her teaming with MMCF a natural pairing. Cook and MMCF share a number of similar goals, with one being “to give children the opportunity to get outside.” Currently the foundation supports over 500 Eastern Sierra children from Lee Vining, Mammoth, Round Valley, Bishop, Big Pine and Lone Pine in a Ski P.E. program, which gives many of them the opportunity to learn skiing or snowboarding for the first time. Another entity that prescribes to “giving back” is Cook’s sponsor CLIF BAR®.
CLIF BAR® is the official energy food sponsor of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team. In February the company was also named as the official energy bar of 11 Alterra Mountain Company destinations including Mammoth Mountain. The company offers athletes and adventurers a variety of nutritious and organic food products to maximize performance during exercise. Family and employee-owned, the company is committed to sustaining its people, brands, business, community and the planet.
CLIF BAR® began sponsoring athletes like Cook, “who embrace the entire athletic experience—training, racing, and community involvement—and want to share it with others” in 1992. Now the company is in the process of developing a program that involves athletes in an additional capacity.
“The premise of the program was largely instigated between the athletes and CLIF BAR® wanting to align more deeply around our shared values …essentially what we want to do is create a grant fund where by the athletes can come to us with a project that they would like to spearhead and we can help bring it to life,” said Bryan Cole Sr. Manager of Adventure Sports Marketing and Environment.
On Monday, March 26 CLIF BAR® brought a film crew to Mammoth Mountain to film Cook, along with some of the Ski P.E. students that MMCF helps get on the hill. Over 100 young athletes spent the morning skiing and snowboarding with Cook all the while being filmed and interviewed by the production crew. Cook joined the students for lunch. And then spent a few minutes telling them her inspirational story. Later the youngsters lined up to get personally autographed posters and photos with Cook. Then it was back on the hill for more skiing, snowboarding and filming.
Cook describes herself “as resilient, relentless, and fearless.” But her story is also one of perseverance and grace. She raced just five days after a high-speed crash during a training run at the 2010 Olympics that resulted in a helicopter medevac. And then in 2018 she suffered a similar experience in her last race before the Olympics. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to recover from this accident as fast as she did eight years before. Referring to the 2018 accident Cook wrote on social media, ” I got in the start gate of the training run yesterday and tried to push past the pain, tried to ignore the instincts to quit, tried to be super-human when I know all too well that that I am rather ordinary. I tried.” Unfortunately, time was not on Cook’s side and she was unable to race. But, that didn’t stop her from cheering on her teammates and exhibiting the true Olympic Spirit.
Cook’s relationship with MMCF and local students fits the CLIF BAR® profile for their upcoming program perfectly. A few days later she posted on social media, “Busy week documenting the MMCF Ski P.E. Program in which I successfully got over 100 kids out of the classroom and onto the mountain to learn about my favorite subject (skiing & snowboarding)…They come from schools within about a 100 mile radius of Mammoth Mountain and many would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn the sports and enjoy our own backyard.”
Hopefully, there will be more news about this association in the near future, but in the meantime Cook is helping MMCF put on its signature event The Mammoth Invitational, April 6-8.
Now in its 10th year, the Invitational is all about coming together on the snow, and having fun for a great cause. Teams of four racers will be paired with professional athletes or local guides for a weekend of friendly on-hill competitions at the Invitational Winter Games, plus an enjoyable evening of giving at the “All That Glitters is Gold” dinner and live auction. In addition there is the 2018 Mammoth Invitational Online Auction with items from Back Country Training with Davey McCoy, a Nick Jonas Autographed Fender Guitar & Album to a Day on the Shooting Range with MLPD all up for bid. The auction gives the bidder a chance at obtaining a very unique item and at the same time supporting our local youth.
More information about the 2018 Mammoth Invitational and the Online Auction can be found out: Mammothfoundation.org
Link to more Stacey Cook-Ski PE Day with CLIF BAR photos by Susan Morning
(available for free download):
Mighty Mite Awards by Susan Morning/Magic Memories
Mighty Mite images courtesy of Lisa Hickson
Photo from U12 Champs courtesy of Joon Chang