Mick Osmundson alpine, Hannah Smith Nordic
A season’s worth of work comes to a head next week for two Crested Butte skiers as J2 (ages 14-15) Alpine racer Mick Osmundson and J2 Nordic skier Hannah Smith each qualified for the Junior National Championships.
Osmundson had an incredible season last year as a second-year J3 racer for the Crested Butte Academy team, finishing first in USSA points in the nation in the downhill and reaching the J3 Nationals.
Unfortunately, the academy shut down, leaving Osmundson no option but to hit the road to find a team and coaches to train with for the ski season in his first year racing as a J2.
Osmundson ended up on Team Summit out of the I-70 corridor starting in October. As a result, Osmundson makes the seven-hour round-trip drive, with his parents at the wheel, nearly every week, leaving on Thursday and returning on Sunday to get the necessary training time.
“Pretty much every week,” says Osmundson. “It’s been rough. My parents have been killing it.”
“The amount of effort he and his parents put in to make it to training is impressive,” says Team Summit ability coach Doug Elsey.
The time Osmundson and his parents put in appears to have paid off though, as he qualified for the J2 Junior National Alpine Championships in Aspen March 6-13.
It’s a big move from J3 to J2 racing as athletes find themselves rubbing shoulders and sharing start positions at several races with some of the top men and women in the nation.
“It’s quite a jump,” says Elsey. “They’re competing on a bigger stage. It’s a whole other level. Often they end up starting way back in the pack and run courses with deep ruts.”
“It got tougher with the age group change,” adds Osmundson. “Older kids, a lot more races, faster and bigger courses, but more fun. The beginning of the season was a little slow but the end of the season was better.”
Osmundson sealed his bid to the Junior National Alpine Championships with a series of great finishes in Aspen last week.
“Without those I would have been out,” says Osmundson.
The J2 Nationals brings in the top 20 to 30 skiers from regions throughout the nation, exposing Rocky Central athletes to the nation’s best in their age group.
“J2 Nationals are the highlight for kids this age,” says Elsey. “It’s an eye opener for sure.”
“That was definitely my goal, to get in there,” says Osmundson.
Smith opened her ski season as a second-year J2 racer nursing a leg injury from her season running cross-country in the fall. As a result, Crested Butte/Gunnison Nordic Team coach Duncan Callahan decided slow was fast as they began training for the 2008-2009 year.
Despite her injury, Smith had some goals in mind.
“I wanted to qualify for Junior Nationals again and qualify first,” says Smith.
Smith opened her season with a series of third-place finishes but both coach and athlete bided their time with the top of the podium in their sights, as well as a second trip to the USSA Junior National Nordic Championships.
“We started slowly and she absorbed everything we’ve thrown at her and kept her head focused on getting to that number one spot,” says Callahan. “It was just a matter of when it was going to happen.”
Smith made the move to the top spot in January with a first-place result in the Aspen Classic race and never looked back since.
In addition to reaching the top spot in the J2 division, Smith has been posting times that rival her elders in the Rocky Mountain Division.
“She’s skiing as fast as any of the girls from the J1 (16-17) and OJ (18-19) divisions,” says Callahan.
Smith got a taste for her competition at the Junior National level at a series of races in Utah and found that she’s right in there with the top girls from other divisions throughout the west.
“There’s definitely some good skiers in the other divisions,” says Smith. “I felt really good at those races.”
“She stacked up really well there,” adds Callahan.
Smith is now headed to the Junior National Nordic Championships in Truckee, Calif. March 9-14 as the number-one J2 skier out of the Rocky Mountain Division.
Both Smith and Callahan have some goals in mind for Smith’s second trip to the big show.
“Certainly, her stated goal is to improve on her results from last year,” says Callahan. “Also to garner all-American status.”
“I’m hoping for a top-five result,” adds Smith. “Last year I went there and got the experience. I know what’s going on and I can focus more on racing.”