Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Butler, Peterson make finals at Olympic qualifier

Sun Valley Snowboarding turns heads at Bachelor


He was the dark horse, the kid from left field and out of the blue. But there he was, competing against the best half-pipe riders in the country.

Sun Valley Snowboard Team member Austen Butler, 17, fought through the onset of a flu and two feet of fresh snow to lay down two of the best pipe rides of his young career last weekend at the Chevy Truck U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Oregon's Mt. Bachelor.

As an Olympic qualifying event, the field was an especially tough one.

"This was an absolutely amazing accomplishment up against people trying to secure Olympic spots," said head Sun Valley coach and program director Andrew Gilbert about Butler's showing.

Butler linked together impressive back-to-back tricks on both pipe attempts; his second run featured a huge inverted 900 (a trick he picked up this past summer in New Zealand), into a McTwist, followed immediately by a corked 7 that he landed perfectly.

Considering that Sun Valley has yet to open it's halfpipe, robbing Butler the opportunity to train these tricks, his weekend performance begins to looks all the more stupendous.

The run qualified Butler among the top 20 who rode the pipe that day, including two-time Olympic medalist Ross Powers, who eventually finished fourth. Though Butler never rose higher than his 20-spot ranking, he was more than pleased with his performance.

"It kind of all came together at the last minute. It was definitely the best ride of my life—nothing's ever come together like that for me before," Butler said while riding back from Oregon with A-Team teammates Jens Peterson, Jeremy Black and Scott Fairfax.

Jens Peterson was the weekend's second big story, also making the finals, but in slopestyle, which is not an Olympic event this year.

Peterson's top-20 ranking did put him in the finals against top national riders including Sun Valley Team alum Wyatt Caldwell.

When he learned his son had qualified for the slopestyle finals, Kirk Peterson drove to Bachelor from the Wood River Valley. It was good timing: not only did he watch Jens compete against the best in the country, but he himself landed a two-foot powder day at Bachelor.

By putting two athletes in the top-20 finals of the most competitive freestyle snowboarding fields of the season, the Sun Valley Snowboard Program is making definitive waves at the highest echelons of a booming sport.

"We are pretty proud of the kids right now," Gilbert said.

Boarders at the Bird

Meanwhile, the majority of the Sun Valley snowboard team was in Snowbird, Utah for Intermountain halfpipe and slopestyle competitions.

Chase Josey continues to dominate his 10-11 year age class. He took first place in both events. Bellevue's Ryan Roemer was never far behind, taking second in slopestyle. In a sign of Sun Valley's immense depth, various younger riders often took uncontested firsts.

Kenny Ballou broke through to the top three in the Youth Men (14-15) slopestyle. Kaitlyn Farrington took first in both events in her Junior Women category (16-17). Teammate Katie Fiaschetti wasn't far behind, taking second in the pipe and third in slopestyle.

One year out of the program, Sun Valley Team alum Bobby Flanigan also made a splash of a cameo, taking first in the Open Men's slopestyle, beating out 15 mostly local Utah riders.

Results from Snowbird:

Slopestyle—Menehune Girls (10-11): 1—Hailey Rheinschild. Menehune Boys: 1—Josey. 2—Ryan Roemer. Breaker Girls (12-13): 2—Josephine Bunce. Breaker Boys: 4—Colton Jones. 5—Ross Bird. 7—Mattias Fostvedt. 10—Gavin Admire. 11—Hayden Burdge. 13—Reed Burdge. Youth Women (14-15): 4—Heather Black. Youth Men: 3—Ballou, 11—Quinn Baser. 13—Wyatt Bunce. 14—Bill Rheinschild. 15—John Martin. 16—Fynn Jako Funke-Riehle. 19—Austin Cruz. Junior Women (16-17): 1—Farrington. 3—Fiaschetti. Junior Men: 5—Mike Kunz. 8—Scott Pike. 15—Sidney Parkhill. 17—Nick Shutz. 19—Thorin Dickey. Open Men: 1—Bobby Flanigan.

Halfpipe—Menehune Girls: 2—Rheinschild. Menehune Boys: 1—Josey. 4—Roemer. Breaker Girls: 3—Bunce. Breaker Boys: 3—Jones, 5—Bird. 7—Fostvedt. 8—Admire. 10—Hayden Burdge. 11—Reed Burdge. Youth Women: 1—Black. Youth Men: 4—Bunce. 5—Ballou. 6—Martin. 9—Baser. 10—Funke-Riehle. 13—Cruz. 14—Rheinschild. Junior Women: 1—Farrington. 2—Fiaschetti. Junior Men: 2—Pike. 3—Parkhill. 6—Dickey. 7—Shutz.

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