A four-midable squad: Sunlight J4s make junior championships
The probability of all four Sunlight Winter Sports Club J4 skiers qualifying for the junior championships was “somewhat of a pipe dream,” said coach John Bresnitz. There are so many factors which can influence alpine ski racing.
Weather was the major player on the second day of the 32nd Dan Prater Memorial Cup, held Feb. 23-26 at Crested Butte.
On Saturday, Feb. 25, the girls competed in slalom and the boys in giant slalom.
Extremely high wind gusts plagued the races, yet the SWSC athletes all skied their best that day.
The girls slalom was the first event Saturday, and Alexis Naylor, who had her career performance in super-G the day before with a 14th-place finish, skied a nearly flawless run and came in sixth out of the 116 11- and 12-year-old girls who started.
With that race, Naylor solidified her spot in the Rocky/Central Junior Championships, which will be held in Steamboat Springs March 14-17.
The next event that day was the boys giant slalom.
On a long course with varying terrain, Vail’s Colby Lange, the winningest J4 this season in the Rocky Mountain Division, held a substantial lead until Cooper Cornelius of Sunlight skied his best giant slalom race of the season, beating Lange’s time by nearly a second and posting the finest victory of his career so far.
Skiing extremely well that race was Sunlight 11-year-old Tyler Dollahan, who fell into bad luck and raced into high head winds on the flattest parts of the course, which placed him well behind the way he skied.
The third race of the day was the second girls slalom.
This time, it was Devan McSwain’s turn to shine. After a solid tie for 23rd in the super-G, she skied one of her best slalom runs of the season and finished in fifth, which also solidified her spot at Steamboat.
With Cornelius, McSwain and Naylor already qualified, it came down to the final day for Dollahan.
Dollahan skied with the backing of all the SWSC athletes and parents in attendance, among others. Under a lot of pressure, Dollahan put down a solid first race that, if two-tenths of a second faster, would have made him a shoe-in. Dollahan was on the bubble and had to wait.
That final day, Cornelius proved he is an all-around skier by placing fourth in the first slalom and third in the final race, giving him three podiums in three events. He began the series with a bronze in the super-G.
This gave Cornelius third-place seeding for the junior championships, which means he will be starting no later than eighth throughout.
Naylor and McSwain both had impressive top 15s in the giant slaloms that day. Though Dollahan wasn’t immediately named to the junior championship team, he was informed that he qualified two days later.
This all really began the morning just before the athletes, parents and coach traveled to Crested Butte, Sunlight Ski Team head coach John Bresnitz said.
“If not for the great help of Sunlight Resort, I don’t believe we could have had the success we did,” he said. “The area allowed us to train super-G early that day on a well groomed run similar to the one were to have our first race on. They brought me up at 7:30 a.m. so I could set, and we got four excellent, high-speed runs in, which set the stage for our momentum from day one of the Prater.”
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