Youth skiing: No doubting Thomas
The start of the 2014-15 alpine ski-racing season held limited promise for the Thomas family of Glenwood Springs.
With one kid recovering from a partially torn ACL and another nursing a painful broken toe, expectations were modest last fall for the middle-school aged racers who qualified for the prestigious Rocky Mountain Division development team.
But ski racing has a notoriously long season and, by mid-winter, Levyn and Tyler Thomas, a brother-sister duo who compete for Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club, were showing sure signs that their form had returned and they were once again competitive with the region’s best skiers.
Their comeback was solidified last weekend by Levyn’s consistent results in all four disciplines at the Rocky/Central Junior Championships in Winter Park, where she finished sixth overall in a highly competitive field. Then on March 18, Levyn was named by the USSA to a team of U14s who will represent America during the upcoming “Can-Am” races, March 26-29 at Mt. Tremblant.
On the same weekend that Levyn was finding success at Winter Park, Tyler was hitting his stride at Powderhorn during the U12 regional championship races. Out of four events, Tyler won both slaloms and finished third in a GS race that was clinched by teammate Topher Davenport.
“It was our best showing in years” at Powderhorn, said Willie Volckhausen, AVSC’s alpine lead U12 coach. “The competition was tough and our kids really rose to the occasion … our gold medalists outperformed some of the best skiing I have witnessed at this event in 12 years.”
Some of that will to win may have been developed within the Thomas household. Back in the day, Phil and Steve Mahre’s family competitiveness was frequently cited as one of the reasons behind their dominance of World Cup ski racing in the 1980s.
Sean Thomas, the Glenwood siblings’ dad, shared that initially Tyler was motivated to match his sister’s accomplishment of inclusion onto the Rocky Mountain Division Team, which came with the coveted team jacket. Now that they’re older, the roles have slightly reversed as Tyler’s skills have risen to his sister’s level.
“I guess they do push each other a little bit,” Sean Thomas said.
COOPER CORNELIUS TO U16 NATIONALS
For the second year in a row, Cooper Cornelius, who also competes for AVSC, will head to the U16 nationals, which begin March 28. This year, they follow the Nature Valley U.S. Nationals in Sugarloaf, Maine — an event that attracts the cream of the crop of veteran and upstart U.S. racers.
It’s been a whirlwind season for Cornelius, a sophomore at Glenwood Springs High School who had podium finishes in downhill and super-G at the recent Rocky/Central U16 championships in Steamboat Springs as well as wins earlier at Lake Placid, NY, and Buttermilk/Tiehack.
“It’s one of his best years,” said his dad, Colt Cornelius. “The biggest thing about Cooper is he’s consistent, especially in big races.”
The upcoming events in Sugarloaf at the USSA U16 National Championships and Assessment Project will constitute the “biggest week of his career,” he added.
That’s because the audience will include coaches and scouts from the U.S. Ski Team, some of whom are already familiar with Cornelius’ skiing. Three athletes from AVSC are among the 95 qualifiers: Cornelius, Dexter Edelman and Isabella Johansson.
A member this year of the elite “National Training Group,” Cornelius (and Edelman) have been invited to camps and competitions in Europe as part of their NTG alliance.
Cornelius has done that while attending a traditional high school (as opposed to a ski academy or a full-blown online high school program). Next year, he may try to lessen the load of missing weeks of school by taking some classes online.
While higher education is certainly on Cornelius’ radar, his dad affirms that Cooper’s ski dreams may have to come first.
“His goal right now is to ski on the U.S. Team,” Colt said.
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Local teams just missed out on qualifying for state as teams but will be sending individual representatives following Friday’s regional meets.