Friday, May 25, 2007

Sun Valley snowboarder nominated to U.S. Team

Farrington latest local to crack upper echelons of sport

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photos by Mark Oliver Sun Valley snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington checks out the home pipe on Baldy from an aerial advantage.

In the rich history of Sun Valley's skiing lore, you can add another name to the list. Kaitlyn Farrington was nominated to the U.S. Snowboarding Team on Monday, making the 17-year old Bellevue girl the latest local to crack the upper echelons of the sport.

Farrington, a junior at Wood River High School, will ride for the U.S. Rookie Halfpipe Team for U.S. Snowboarding. She was one of four athletes elected to the squad for the 2007-08 season.

The difference between being "named" to the team and being "nominated" is basically a formality, said Juliann Fritz, public relations director with U.S. Snowboarding.

"They won't name teams until they (the athletes) go through an education process," Fritz said. "The process goes over what responsibilities the rider has and education about the team. The official team is typically named in the summer or fall.

"It will be exciting to have her."

The feeling goes both ways. Farrington, a Hailey native, said she is pretty thrilled to be on the team, not only for the sporting aspect and all that goes with it, but for the educational opportunities as well.

"The U.S. team has opened a lot of doors for me. It means I can move on with my life. I want to go to college, and if I mess up my knee or anything else, I can do that. I need to have college there, too," said Farrington, a veteran of two knee surgeries.

The bubbly brunette has made a rapid ascent in the sport from somewhat of an inauspicious start.

"When I was in the fifth grade my mom tried to teach me on Lower River Run. Everyone was laughing at me from the chairlift. I just kept catching my edge. I wasn't frustrated, though, and I kept with it. By the end of the day I went off the top of Baldy," she said.

That was the day Farrington packed away her alpine skis for good.

"I was pretty stoked that I learned how to do it. I had skied since I was around three years old and that day I dropped skiing."

At the urging of her snowboarding buddy, Heather Black, Farrington joined the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation's snowboard team in ninth grade. Two years later, with countless hours of training and riding under her belt, she was a solid member of the A team, and now, the U.S. team.

She says her favorite event is slopestyle and she excels with her athleticism and her fearlessness, but it's her work ethic that sets her apart, said SVSEF coach Andy Gilbert.

"Coach A.J. Grabos told me very rarely has he seen anyone work harder in pipe," Gilbert said. "She's always looking beyond what she is already doing. She is also one of those rare kids that thrives being on the road.

Which is a good thing, as Farrington slept in more strange beds than Goldilocks this past season, maintaining a training and racing schedule that kept her on the road for 42 days between January 23 and March 12. Despite the grind, she maintained good grades and an even better track record in competitions.

In the USSA national halfpipe rankings, Farrington is ranked 11th overall. Her company includes Gretchen Bleiler, Hannah Teter and Lindsay Jacobellis, who are 1-2-3. She is currently sixth overall in slopestyle.

At the Chevrolet Revolution Tour at Mt. Bachelor in February, Farrington won a slopestyle event and finished third in halfpipe. Overall, she posted 11 top-10 finishes in national competitions, including six podiums, plus a 15th-place finish in a World Cup halfpipe. She was also named to the World Junior Team. (The World Junior Championships were not held because a lack of snow.)

"At the beginning of the year I set a goal to learn new tricks and make podiums (finish top 3) at the Revolution Tour. I wanted to make the World Junior Team. When I did those things I would make new goals and go on to what I had to do to get on that," Farrington said.

Gilbert said Farrington works hard at school, too, especially in her favorite subjects, science and math. She is one of a handful of riders not to come from a private academy, which means she had to complete her high school course load in addition to training and racing. Ski and snowboard academies typically take long breaks during the season so their student athletes can concentrate on competing.

Gilbert said Farrington's 2007-08 racing schedule would be determined by input from both U.S. team and SVSEF.

"They will have certain events they will want her in, and we have certain events we want her in," Gilbert said. "She will ride in a few select World Cup events at the coaches discretion. The cool thing about the Rookie Team is you still get to work with your home club, so it is a partnership between U.S. Snowboarding and the SVSEF. But she also gets to train with all the big names. What a cool thing to bring back to our team as well."

No matter where she's competing, Farrington will bring her sunny nature, tenacious spirit and big bag of tricks.

"You just go for it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," she said.

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