Hillari Spencer named national skiercross champion
Sixteen athletes from the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team qualified for the USASA (United States of America Snowboard Association) Nationals held at Copper Mountain, Sunday through Friday, April 5-10.
The competition is the premier event for amateur athletes in the U.S. with as many as 1,500 of the top skiers and snowboarders from around the country competing.
“The best riders are plucked from all over the country,” says Crested Butte Mountain Sports assistant director Christian Robertson. “It’s a full week of competition, it’s a marathon.”
Mountain Sports Team freeride coach Woody Lindenmyer was on hand in Copper to guide his six athletes through the skiercross competitions.
Heading into the competition, Lindenmyer expected some podium results from his skiers.
“I had some pretty high hopes but skiercross is always a crap-shoot,” says Lindenmyer. “All kinds of things can happen.”
The skiercross sends anywhere from four to six skiers down a course at once, complete with tabletop jumps and tight banked turns.
Most of the time, the key to success relies in the hole shot—that is, first one out of the starting gate.
“Get the hole shot and stay in front,” says Lindenmyer.
In the end, Hillari Spencer took the title in the 16-to-19-year-old age group to emerge from the week the national skiercross champion.
While the hole shot went to teammate Hailey Loeffler, the two skiers clipped skis, moving Loeffler back to fourth place while Spencer took the lead to the finish line.
“She’s been building her game up all season,” says Lindenmyer.
Unfortunately, Spencer’s success came at the expense of Loeffler.
“Hailey was pretty bummed,” says Lindenmyer. “She never reached her full potential competition-wise, which is too bad because she skied awesome this season.”
Josie Byron and Djemilah Birnie took fourth and fifth place, respectively, in the 11-to-15-year-old age class.
Robertson handled the eight snowboarders who qualified for nationals, seven of whom competed in the younger age classes.
There are five events for snowboarders: slalom, giant slalom, halfpipe, slopestyle and boardercross.
Thomas Taaca and Nora Healey competed in all five disciplines in the 10-to-11-year-old age group class and Colleen Healey did the same in her age group, 12-to-13-year-olds.
With five top ten results including a second place in giant slalom and a third place in boardercross, Colleen took the overall title for her age.
“That just proves that she’s a great overall rider,” says Robertson.
Nora and Thomas made the trip to the podium as well, with both finishing in third place overall.
Cameron and Katie Pool and Rye and Gage Livermore made the most of their first trip to the big show, getting a taste of what is on the horizon for their careers in the sport.
“The big thing was to enjoy the event and concentrate on doing their best run,” says Robertson. “Stick to what they can do well and all of the kids did that. They performed to the best of their abilities day in and day out. They’re in a place where next year they can be podium contenders. They’re already chomping at the bit to take the next step.”
The Blunck brothers, Aaron and Nolan, represented the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team in the skier halfpipe and slopestyle.
Freeskiing coach Hans von Briesen worked with the Blunck brothers this season and had the two focused on their effort at hand leading into the nationals.
“We knew we had a couple good runs and just wanted to throw them down,” says von Briesen. “Let’s just do what we do.”
Nolan qualified for nationals but spent most of the year on the freeskiing circuit. Yet the distraction barely phased him as he moved up 12 spots from his qualifying seed in the 11-to-15-year-old age group with a solid showing in the halfpipe at Copper.
“When he got there he was super stoked and put down a really good run,” says von Briesen. “I think Nolan surprised himself.”
Aaron continued his assault on the national scene with a second-place finish in the slopestyle and a fifth-place finish in the halfpipe in the 11-to-15-year-old age group. His effort stoked Aaron’s fire for next year.
“Next year we’re going to come out guns blazing,” says von Briesen. “Aaron wants to qualify first and finish first in both the slopestyle and halfpipe. Having been to nationals and seeing where they fall in with the rest of the country, they see they can do really well.”
“They all did awesome,” adds Robertson. “We got some results, which was kind of a bonus. It was a great week and a great year. We’re looking forward to building from here.”