New Castle’s McKennis training her sights on the slopes |

New Castle’s McKennis training her sights on the slopes

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Skier Alice McKennis, of the United States, smiles following her 10th place finish at the women's World Cup Downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
AP | the Canadian Press

Monday, Jan. 25.

Alice McKennis is doing her best to keep that date from consuming her focus.

It’s the date the U.S. alpine ski team announces its Olympic selections, the date she’ll learn her Olympic fate.

“I’m trying not to think about it too much,” said the 20-year-old New Castle native, currently in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, for one of two remaining World Cup stops before the Vancouver Olympics open on Feb. 12. “I’m trying to stay focused on skiing.”

McKennis, who had just one World Cup start to her name entering the 2009-10 season, has wasted absolutely no time making a name for herself.

In early December, McKennis finished 10th and 18th in downhill World Cup starts at Lake Louise, Alberta. In seven total starts this season – four downhill and three super-G races – McKennis has four top-25 finishes.

Consequently, the former Sunlight Ski Team Buddy Werner racer is very much in the running for a trip to Vancouver.

McKennis always dreamed of making the Olympics, but she never truly believed she’d be in contention so quickly.

“Um, I’m definitely a little ahead of where I expected,” she said by phone on Thursday. “I didn’t really think it was much of a possibility coming into the season, but I just started off strong. I’ve skied really well so far.”

High finishes are nothing new to McKennis, whose NorAm Cup titles in downhill and super-G last season earned her guaranteed World Cup starts in 2009-10. The NorAm success has clearly carried over to her new, bigger stage.

“Coming into the World Cup circuit, I was racing against the best girls in the world and I didn’t really know where I stood. I hadn’t raced against most of them,” McKennis said. “I started off really well. I proved to myself I can be in there, that I can do it.”

Given the work she’s poured into chasing her World Cup and Olympic aspirations, it’s no wonder the transition has been relatively seamless.

“I started racing when I was 6,” McKennis said. “That’s 14 years of racing, endless hours in the gym, on the hill and traveling on airplanes. Not spending a lot of time at home or seeing my family has been hard. I’ve dedicated pretty much everything to racing.”

McKennis did make it back to Colorado to visit her family for the Christmas holiday. While home, she met her new niece, born just a few days after her races in Lake Louise, for the first time.

Between welcoming a new family member to the fray and perhaps seeing another family member off to Vancouver for the Olympics, it’s an exciting time for the McKennis clan.

And, just a few days from now, on Jan. 25, they’ll find out if the latter becomes a reality.

Whether or not McKennis’ Olympic dreams are realized, a bright future awaits the speedy 20-year-old.

Just by having the sport she loves serve as her day job, she’s already realizing a dream.

“I definitely realize how lucky I am to do the sport I love,” McKennis said. “I have a lot of passion for skiing. I really am lucky to be able to do the sport. It’s been a lot of hard work, for sure. I’ve put a lot into it and there are definitely ups and downs, but I love it.

“It’s so worth it.”

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