After skiing the Chapman Hill lights to regular-season success, the Purgatory Freestyle Team now will have to adjust to the bright lights of the United States Ski Association Junior Nationals.
That shouldn’t be a problem for George McQuinn and Hannah Smith; they’ve skied under this spotlight before.
Annually, the USSA selects 60 freestyle athletes 18 years and younger from across the country to compete at Junior Nationals. When the snow cleared, Durango claimed 12 percent – a record seven skiers.
“This ties the most athletes that we have ever had go to the Junior Nationals,” Purgatory Freestyle Team coach Kirk Rawles said in a news release to The Durango Herald. “Given that athletes are ranked against 18-year-olds and not in age classes, this is quite an accomplishment.”
McQuinn is the defending Junior Nationals combined champion. Smith is making her third consecutive trip.
The former again will represent the Rocky Mountain division in the combined events of aerials, halfpipe and moguls, while the latter – first in moguls and dual moguls the last two weekends in Steamboat Springs and Telluride – will be an all-event competitor in aerials, dual moguls, halfpipe, moguls and slopestyle.
This year’s pinnacle event for junior freestyle skiers will take place Monday through March 10 in Park City, Utah.
Joining McQuinn and Smith are Coleman Bader, Jimmy Pope, Sadie Smith and Nathan Youssef. Natalie Lyon, who won bronze in aerials at the event last year, also qualified but will not compete because of an injury suffered earlier this season.
Bader, Pope and Youssef will compete in aerials. Sadie Smith, the younger sister of Hannah Smith, will follow in her older sister’s footsteps as an all-event skier.
“The athletes have kept posting personal bests throughout the season in large part to their strong work ethic and the great mogul training site at Chapman Hill,” said Rawles, whose brother Scott Rawles coaches the U.S. Moguls Team. “This coupled with the different terrain parks at Purgatory has given our athletes a well-rounded training program.”
Now it’s time to put that training under the spotlight.