Nationals brings together the true cream of the mogul skiing crop, from former Olympics medalists to U.S. Ski Team athletes to young up-and-comers like the five Telluride skiers who qualified for the event.
In single moguls, all but one of Telluride’s skiers broke into the top 16 to land spots in the finals, with the boys crowding the qualifying round’s top ten with Joe Discoe in third, Wade Parkinson in sixth and Zak Watkins in 10th. For the girls, Lindsey Cannon qualified in 14th, while Lane Stoltzner narrowly missed the cut finishing 22nd.
In the finals, Discoe hung onto the podium taking third overall after wowing the judges with the best turns of the day. A small mistake after landing his D-spin mute grab off the course’s bottom jump cost him the win, said coach Caleb Martin. Meanwhile, Parkinson and Watkins both narrowly missed the top ten, with Parkinson in 11th and Watkins in 14th. Watkins, attempting a “ginormous” back flip in his finals run, overshot his landing and exploded, breaking his thumb.
Cannon also had some back flip trouble in the finals, coming up short off the top jump and catching her tips. She finished 16th overall.
Cannon came back with a vengeance for the duals event. To qualify, she skied two seconds faster than singles day, “without compromising her turns,” said coach Martin, and came up with the highest score of her career. She beat U.S. Team member Laurel Shanley in the first round but lost to Michelle Roark in the round of eight. She finished in a tie for fifth place overall.
Stoltzner qualified in 14th for duals, then lost her first dual to former silver medalist Shannon Bahrke. After a rough start, Stoltzner fired her engines to catch up to Bahrke – no easy task. “At that point she was flying,” said Martin, “but got pitched forward on a turn and crashed.”
Parkinson qualified eighth with another ripping run in the qualifications, beating Cody Temple, who took the silver at last season’s Nationals. Next he dueled the eventual winner, U.S. Team member Sho Kashima, in what Martin called “one of the most exciting duals of the day.”
To say Kashima and Parkinson were skiing a close race is an understatement; they both skied the middle lines so were using the same bumps to turn on. “It was neck and neck all the way into the bottom air when both athletes launched huge air,” Martin said, with Kashima doing a loop grab, and Parkinson a D-spin. They were so close that at the apex of the jump Kashima’s ski actually hit Parkinson in the shoulder, but luckily both athletes were able to land. The mid-air run-in did, however, cause Parkinson problems on his landing and Kashima ended up winning the race and going on to win the event.
Watkins didn’t compete due to his broken thumb, and Discoe didn’t qualify after crossing the center line – an automatic disqualification.
While the Nationals event marks the conclusion of the competitive ski season for these local athletes, don’t count on them staying grounded for long. They’ll be attending summer ski camps and dryland training throughout the off season in preparation for next winter – a Winter Olympics winter (Vancouver 2010).