Taos Ski Valley hosts USSA championships, TWST athletes excel

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The Taos Winter Sports Team and Taos Ski Valley hosted the United State Ski and Snowboard Association Southern Series Championships March 24-25.

This event drew a deep and talented field with more than 170 athletes and their families from Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, including the powerful University of New Mexico ski team. Athletes were vying for individual overall series titles and the overall team title.

To host a quality event of this magnitude, Taos Ski Valley groomers spent significant time in to especially prepare the snow surface in the race venue. “The resulting conditions were absolutely perfect come race day,” said head alpine race coach, Sean Cassily. “Both visiting athletes and coaches marveled about the challenging yet fair racing conditions.”

Aidan Heflin of the Taos Winter Sports Team earned his fourth consecutive individual overall championship. Heflin, a standout racer in the program the last few years, continues to compete well against athletes from much bigger programs.

“At this point it’s a bit like the David and Goliath story for our athletes. Our athletes don’t get to train as often, or to the same level as the athletes from the big programs, yet they go out there and show an extraordinary amount of grit and determination allowing them to succeed against the odds that are stacked against them,” said Cassily. “Grit and determination is why Heflin is a champion again this year.”

The weekend of events began on Saturday with the giant slalom. Greta Klinkmann and Solana Pearl started things up, with Klinkmann placing seventh on run one, and Pearl placing eighth. The two swapped spots on the second run with Pearl coming in seventh and Klinkmann occupying the eighth spot.

“Klinkmann really stepped things up this year. She was focused all season, worked hard at developing her skills, and as a result she is getting better results this season,” said Coach Petra Pirc. “I am really proud of her work ethic and it’s paying off for her.”

On Sunday the athletes tackled the slalom. In the first run for the girls U12 group, Greta Klinkmann garnered a ninth place, followed by Rowan Heflin in tenth. On run No. 2, Solana Pearl charged into the tenth spot.

For the boys, TWST placed three in the top 10 for the U10 group on day one. Sasho McDowell came away with two sixth place finishes, while Ian McLean earned an eighth and tenth place. Col Cassily showed consistency with two ninth places.

On day two, in the boys U10 race, Ian Mclean finished seventh, and Sasho McDowell placed ninth. In run two, McDowell placed eighth.

Standout moment

TWST athlete Hailey McDowell competed in the Rocky Mountain Division U14 Championships held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado March 13-18. That event showcased athletes from the Rockies and the upper Midwest. “McDowell enjoys the speed of ski racing, and it showed in the super-G where she placed 51st, moving up almost 30 spots from her start position,” said Cassily.

“This was a really solid effort on her part,” said Cassily. “We look forward to what she can accomplish as she gets more time on her skis.”

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