SV riders dominate
Three to train with U.S. team
By MICHAEL AMES
Express Staff Writer
The Sun Valley snowboard team still does
not have a half pipe.
The kids know this, we know this, but it’s
doubtful that any other teams who showed up in Aspen, Colo. for last weekend’s
Western Regional Championships could have guessed that Sun Valley’s elite
competitors are still halfpipe-less.
From Calgary to Mammoth, teams from the
furthest reaches of western North America hit the road to Aspen for this huge
Aspen’s tournament was the largest of the
year and the halfpipe had the most competitors of any tournament Sun Valley
Snowboard Team Coach Andy Gilbert has ever attended.
For those who did learn that Gilbert's
team trains sans-pipe, there was barely time to gasp in disbelief before Sun
Valley snowboarders rose to the top of various events.
The halfpipe event had so many competitors
that the race organizers had to enact some unusual and difficult rules to
whittle down the field of over 150 snowboarders.
After only one run in the pipe, the pool
was cut to 55 with five going directly to finals and 50 getting the chance to
take a second run.
Impressively, Sun Valley sent two athletes
directly to the halfpipe finals. Without passing GO, without collecting $200 and
without taking another run, Coach Gilbert proudly sent David Kunz and Yancy
Caldwell to perform in the final event.
Kunz finished first in his J2 class and
third overall in the pipe. Caldwell finished second in his J1 class and fourth
in the overall pipe.
For the girls, Liz Shanklin turned in an
equally exceptional performance by taking first in her J1 class and ranking in
the top ten in the overall female halfpipe.
In addition to these elite finishers, Sun
Valley sent 11 more for a second run in the pipe. Eleven of 55 is a truly
outstanding showing for any team, and an even more impressive feat for a team
that has no pipe for practice.
Sun Valley found more success in other
events. In the alpine slalom, Austen Butler finished fourth in his Juniors
A couple of Sun Valley alumni were in
Aspen as well and one of these old faces, Graham Watanabe, won the overall
slalom event outright.
Another SV alumni present was Quinn Orb
who left the Wood River Valley when he joined the Junior World Team.
As every snowboarder in the Wood River
Valley knows, Sun Valley has conceded to installing a pipe on Lower Warm Springs
next season. For coach Gilbert, this means a chance for even more success.
Gilbert couldn’t hide his excitement about
the new pipe. "We’ve done so well without a pipe—now that we’ll have one we’ll
probably shoot through the roof," he said.
He also looks forward to the training
possibilities: "The pipes are getting bigger, so the kids need to train to get
The highest accolades awarded to Sun
Valley riders last weekend were invitations for Shanklin, Kunz and Caldwell onto
the U.S. Junior Gold Team. Each year six riders are named to the Gold Team and
are invited to train with U.S. Snowboard team in the summer at Oregon’s Mt.
For three of six Gold Team members to be
from the same halfpipe-less Sun Valley team is incredible.
Those Sun Valley riders on the Gold Team
will be invited back to train at Hood every year they remain juniors. Kunz,
Caldwell and Shanklin will thus be joining past Sun Valley riders Kelsey Bunce
and Claire Cetera at Mt. Hood this summer.
The season is nearing its end, but coach
Gilbert will head back to Aspen with the first week in April for U.S. Finals.
Also, Ed Sawicz will be heading to Sunday River, Maine for the USASA National