Morris wins freeskiing titles
Kai Morris of No Name is the national champion for his age group in three different events, having struck gold in slopestyle, halfpipe and rail jam during the just-completed USASA Nationals at Copper Mountain.
Competing in the 9-and-under category, Morris, a freeskier who trains with Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, enjoyed his first victory at nationals in halfpipe, followed by a rail jam win. He made it a hat trick with a gold medal in slopestyle.
“Kai has worked really hard this year,” said AVSC snowboard program director Tyler Lindsay, who was in charge of the rail jam venue at Copper Mountain during nationals. “That whole group of AVSC freeski boys are pushing each other every day. The coaches have done a great job developing their skills and keeping them safe.”
Morris is the youngest of a hard-charging group of next-generation AVSC freeski athletes who are following in the footsteps of Olympian Torin Yater-Wallace, from Basalt, and Alex Ferreira.
Also competing at Copper Mountain were Joey Lang and Tyler Spence of Carbondale. Spence was 17th in the slopestyle field. Dawson Hodgson of Carbondale was 11th in skier slopestyle for 10-12-year-old boys, and Nolen Johnson finished 23rd.
In snowboarding, Kyla Sobieralski of Carbondale was eighth in open class women in slopestyle. Richard Argueta finished 42nd in slalom among boys aged 12-13, 24th in slopestyle, 45th in giant slalom and 49th in halfpipe.
Athletes rode six venues at Copper Mountain in events ranging from boardercross to slopestyle, rail jam, giant slalom, “traditional” slalom, banked slalom and halfpipe.
In a competitive age class for local boys 10-11 years old, Davis Cook of Carbondale was ninth in snowboarding slalom, 11th in giant slalom and 47th in halfpipe at nationals. Elliot Dwyer-Walz of Glenwood Springs finished 32nd in this class in slopestyle and 35th in boardercross.
Meanwhile, Logan Lauffer of Rifle was seventh in banked slalom, 15th in boardercross and 28th in giant slalom. Among 12-13 year-olds, Connor Cook of Carbondale rode to a 39th in giant slalom.
Lending a bit of glamour to the USASA’s was guest announcer Ryan Stassel, a 2014 Sochi Olympian in slopestyle. Olympic boardercross silver medalist Lindsay Jacobellis and Ross Powers — who led the U.S. halfipipe medal sweep in the 2002 Games — were among the other high-profile athletes competing at Copper Mountain.
“It’s fun for the kids to see a connection between what they’re doing and what they’re working for,” Tyler Lindsay said.
Summer training for freeriders and freeskiers picks up again in June on the “Buttermilk Glacier,” where the multitude of snow stored for the halfpipe and other features will be rolled out into a soft surface that can accommodate AVSC’s airbag.
On July 31, a team of AVSC athletes will head to New Zealand for “some solid winter training in August,” Lindsay said.
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The Rifle High School baseball team is set to host a regional round as the No. 2 seed overall in the Class 4A State Baseball playoffs this weekend.