There to witness and take part in the sport’s progress-in-the-making were seven Telluride snowboarders, all trained under the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club banner.
According to TSSC head snowboard coach Dylan Cooney, the experience these up-and-coming local boarders garnered at this high-level event, which draws nearly 2,000 of the nation’s best snowboard competitors, was invaluable.
“It’s all the best riders in the U.S. who show up, and it’s crazy to watch each age division riding at such a high-end, pro level,” said Cooney, an experienced pro-rider himself.
This being an Olympic winter certainly fired up young athletes competing on the national circuit this year, all of whom undoubtedly watched U.S. Snowboard Team icon Shaun White throw down an impossible-to-replicate performance in the halfpipe – only to return to their home mountains to attempt to capture some of their own snowboard glory.
“The Olympics definitely fired up a bunch of kids. There were kids [competing at Nationals this year] who we’re definitely going to see four years from now on the U.S. Olympic team,” Cooney said.
Needless to say, there was some stiff competition for Telluride’s snowboarders at this year’s U.S. Snowboard Nationals.
In the women’s open division, in which local rider Molly Cooney competed, there were U.S. and Canadian Olympic Snowboard race team members laying down the fastest runs of the GS and Slalom events. Yet despite the tough competition, Cooney managed to do more than hold her own, climbing into the top ten in both events. Cooney took ninth in Slalom and 10th in GS. Combined with her high-ranking scores in the rest of the events (11th in halfpipe, 12th in slopestyle and 17th in boardercross,) Cooney floated to an impressive fourth in the women’s open class overall combined rankings.
Joining her at the top of the combined rankings for his 14-15 year old boys division was brother Beecher Cooney. Beecher placed fifth overall in the combined, after finishing 20th in the halfpipe, 32nd in the GS, 36th in boardercross, 44th in Slalom, and 59th in slopestyle.
“There are lots of kids who qualify in all the disciplines, but most of them specialize in just one or two events. The fact that both of them came out in the top ten was pretty huge,” Coach Cooney said of his younger siblings’ Nationals performances. “To watch them both bring out their best tricks and have it all come together in one run was pretty impressive. But that went for all the kids – they all came out and gave it their all,” he added of the other Telluride competitors’ performances earlier this month at Nationals.
Noah Perkovich and Gage Livermore both competed in the boys’ 12-13 age class, where Perkovich claimed 48th in the halfpipe and Livermore took 53rd in pipe and 38th in slopestyle.
Robert Rayes nailed a solid run in the halfpipe to take 26th overall in his 16-17 age division, while in the same event Hobie Plumber took 40th in his 14-15 age class.
Rye Livermore, facing stiff competition in the boys’ 10-11 group, finished 51st in slopestyle.
With only 17 kids total participating in TSSC’s snowboard club this year, seeing so many qualify for Nationals was inspiring, Coach Cooney said.
“For being such a small club and having so many kids do well at Nationals really helped us stand out,” he said, noting that while the snowboard community in Telluride may be relatively small, it is nevertheless potent.
Ultimately, however, it wasn’t how Telluride competitors stacked up against the rest of the country’s snowboard nation that provided the most gratifying aspect of this season-culminating event. “At the end of the day, it was the huge smiles they all had on their faces that was the most rewarding part of nationals,” Cooney said.
U.S. Snowboard Nationals marked the end of the competitive season for all TSSC teams.