There can be little doubt about the biggest junior story as this obscenely successful U.S. ski season comes to a close. When a young girl wins a championship
slalom by more than 11 seconds, as Mikaela Shiffrin did at the Eastern J3 Junior Olympics at Sunday River, Maine, it will get the attention of race veterans
who think they have seen it all.
“You see all these young skiers — good young skiers — come down the hill,” said
veteran starter and Sunday River race director Bear Bryant. “And then there was
this World Cup skier.”
Yes, she stood out that much. Shiffrin also collected a pair of gold medals at
the international Topolino Games in Italy, taking the slalom by four seconds and
coming from behind to win the GS as well. According to Burke Mountain Academy Headmaster Kirk Dwyer, one of the architects of this athlete’s blossoming
career, it’s all about the work ethic.
“Yes,” he says, “she is that good.”
The reason, he says, is that Shiffrin trains harder and longer than her peers. She
is scheduled to attend the Whistler Cup to close out her season, but assuming she
starts the races there as expected, she’ll have only 11 starts this season. Racing
for Shiffrin really takes a back seat to training. So far there is just one race she
attended this season she did not win, and that was a DNF.
“She is always looking to improve,” says Dwyer. “Skiing is her art.”
The U.S. National Championships are always a good gauge of the cream of the
junior crop. Two U.S. skiers in particular showed strongly. Ski Racing asked U.S.
National Alpine Director Walt Evans with whom he had been most impressed.
“Ryan Cochran-Siegle,” he said. And then he mentioned Robbie Kelley. Those
two just happen to be related, and part of the dynasty of American ski racing
— the Cochran family of Vermont.
Cochran-Siegle was the top junior in the men’s super G at the Lake Placid-hosted U.S. Nationals. In an event largely defined by start number, he made a
dramatic move up the finish order, collecting sixth from the 31st start. He was
the only finisher in the top 15 who started later than 20th.
Kelley was the top junior finisher in the men’s giant slalom, putting down a
potent second run on a course and day when the best GS skiers in the nation
struggled. He finished 10th from the 34th start.
Others certainly showed some quality. Among the men, Colby Granstrom was
the second junior behind Kelley in the GS and was the top junior in slalom.
Among the women, the Canadians were the obvious class of the junior field with
Erin Mielzynski winning junior titles in both slalom and GS and Maple Leaf
teammate Madison Irwin in super G and combined. Julia Ford made the junior
podium in all four events at Placid. A fantastic showing from J2 Foreste Peterson put her among the top three juniors in combined and GS.
Jared Goldberg and Max Lamb both creased the top three in two events and
others making at least one trip to the podium included Will Gregorak, Wiley
Maple, Kieffer Christianson, Felicia Byers and Tucker Marshall.
Foreste Peterson came into the (senior) Nationals after taking home some tro-phies from the J2 Nationals event earlier in the month at Sugarloaf, Maine.
Peterson said having the schedule flip-flopped, with the gate races running before the speed events, probably helped her gain some momentum. “It was an
adjustment for sure, they changed the whole schedule around,” she said. Last
week, after a 20-inch snowfall, she said, “it was really soft snow, which I’m use
to because I’m from the West. We came in expecting Eastern boilerplate so that
was nice. I had a pretty decent mistake (in the slalom) but was able to pull it
around and finish second. In the GS I went all out and was on top. Then, going
into speed and I haven’t really raced much speed this year, I was sixth in super G
and 5th in downhill which I’m really pleased with.”
Scott Snow of Team Independence was already in possession of the super G
crown and that seemed to spike his confidence as he positively spanked the
men’s downhill field, sliding away with a 0.98-second margin over Sandy Vietze.
Bronson Wright was third, Colin Kamphius made a huge run to get fourth from
the 32nd start, and Bryce Ellis claimed fifth.
“I wasn’t sure, but I was hoping it would happen,” said Snow, coached by his
dad within the “blue collar” race team they created. “I knew I was good at downhill. I’m strong and a big guy,” he said, adding that there are a lot of fast guys out
there. “You can’t take anything for granted.”
Mount Bachelor’s Jordon hadn’t really been prepared to win the J2 downhill.
Coming in as a first year J2, she figured she’d be happy with a top 10. After the
training run she bumped that expectation up to shoot for a podium result, but
then things changed again. “Yesterday in the FIS race when I got third I thought
I was the first ‘first-year,’ but then I found out the girl who was in second (
Katharine Irwin) was also a first-year,” Schweitzer said. “So today I really wanted to
She pulled that off, edging Irwin by four hundredths for the title. Anna Kikut
was the first “second-year” in third with Sydney Staples fourth and combined
winner Foreste Peterson fifth.
Andrew Kircher, representing Rowmark Academy, added the combined title
to the slalom gold he took earlier. “This was a close and exciting race and it was
so fun to duke it out between my good friends,” Kircher said. “I am extremely
pleased and will leave Sugarloaf satisfied.”
He said he knew he could race but wasn’t that sure he could walk away with
titles. “I was not expecting to do as well as I did,” said Kircher. “I knew I had the
ability and it ended up I got it done in the biggest race of the year.”
In the western J3 meet at Vail, Nicholas Mitchell of Welch Valley, Minn.,
got a pair of wins including a downhill claimed by nearly a full second. But it
was Aspen’s Danielle Brownwell-Patty who got the bigger headlines winning
three races in three days by extensive margins, including a two second margin
in the GS.