Five local skiers made the trip to Stratton last weekend for this season-ending event, to which only the top handful of highest-ranked mogul skiers in the country are invited. Although skiers had to be shuttled to the top of the mogul course; lack of snow in Vermont had forced the ski area to shut down its lifts; Telluride skiers took the experience in stride. In the midst of a flurry of notable results piled up from the small but powerful Team Telluride, it was 16-year-old Keaton McCargo who provided the team’s icing on the cake with her podium-claiming performance in the Dual Moguls contest.
After qualifying in fifth position on Duals day, McCargo plowed ahead through four subsequent dual matches, ultimately claiming third place after losing only one of the four grueling dual matches against the nation’s highest ranked female skiers.
“My last dual was probably my best one; I skied the best I have all year,” McCargo says of her bronze medal-winning run, which consisted of a 360 and back layup trick on the course’s two jumps. “It was a really good note to end the season on, and I’m looking forward to picking up with similar results next year,” she said, after her victory.
The only two other skiers able to notch higher-scoring runs were two of the sports’ best, with Park City Freestyle's K.C. Oakley, recently named the World Cup Rookie of the Year, taking gold ahead of last year’s National Champion, Eliza Outtrim.
McCargo’s bronze was this Telluride skier’s first ever medal in a National Championship event.
McCargo was in good company in the Duals contest, as teammate Kealey Zaumseil also took the slushy plunge in the qualification round to finish eighth overall; organizers took only the top 24 skiers from the qualification round, with the top eight receiving a bye and an automatic berth into the round of 16. She lost her first dual in a close race against former teammate Lane Stoltzner, finishing tenth overall out of the field of 36. Telluride- and Sun Valley-trained Sophia Schwartz finished fourth.
Nicki Jones, in his second-ever National Championship, didn’t make it past the qualifying round, but the fact that this young skier had made the cut to compete provided reason to celebrate. TSSC’s longtime male moguls leader Wade Parkinson qualified in 17th, but lost his first dual to finish 18th overall.
Parkinson was also dealt a tough blow on singles day, despite high expectations from this touted local skier. “He continues to be a true example of great leadership and sportsmanship for the younger kids on our team,” says Jenny Page, press coordinator for TSSC freestyle. Despite the disappointment in the singles competition, in which he fell in the qualifying run, Parkinson was there nevertheless to cheer on his teammates Morgan Osborne, Jones, Zaumseil, and McCargo.
Osborne, skiing in his first Nationals at a youthful 15 years old, had made qualifying for the U.S. Nationals a goal at the beginning of the season. Though he did not making the cut into the finals round at last weekend’s single moguls contest, he had accomplished his goal by being ranked among the country’s very best.
Zaumseil qualified in seventh overall with a score of 22.77; she came out strong in the finals to inch her way into the top ten at eighth overall in what was only her second appearance on the Nationals circuit.
McCargo had also notched a high score in the single moguls qualification round, jumping onto the leader’s list at sixth place with her score of 23.10. She fell in the second run, however, and wound up in 16th.
These two finals round qualifications from Telluride’s leading female mogulists were especially significant in light of the top-notch skiers who took the five spots ahead of them. Hannah Kearney, Heather McPhie, K.C. Oakley, Brittany Loweree, and Mikaela Matthews are all U.S. Freestyle Ski Team athletes; McCargo and Zaumseil’s positioning just behind these well-known mogul skiers speaks to these local athletes’ ability and skill.
So many notable results from Telluride skiers at this illustrious national event gives local freestyle fans much to look forward to, as this new crop of skiers matures and continues to climb the ranks in coming ski seasons.
Although she admits that she’s biased, McCargo believes Telluride’s mogul skiers are indeed some of the best in the country.
“We’ve got the best skiing style of any mogul team in the country, maybe the world. We’ve got such a great background with our mountain, and with so many kids going to Nationals, there’s a lot of potential there,” she says.
We’ll undoubtedly be seeing more from these local athletes, come next ski season.