Kearney showed his skill and dominance the whole weekend, placing second Friday and Saturday, on both race-qualifier days.
Friday saw Kearney on the heels of five-time Banked Slalom Champion Temple Cummins; on Saturday, he finished just behind six-time Banked Slalom Champion Terje Haakonsen, one of his biggest snowboarding idols – and considered by many to be the most influential snowboarder of all time.
After accepting his coveted Mt. Baker gold duct-tape trophy, Kearney said, “I feel like I'm on top of the universe right now…It's ridiculous; I've never felt like this before.”
In Sunday’s final race, Kearney defeated his idols with his first of two runs’ best time of 1:28:07.
As ESPN writer Mary Fenton wrote of his accomplishment: “The LBS (Legendary Banked Slalom) is a place where a 17-year-old can compete alongside Terje Haakonsen and Jamie Lynn – the Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong of the shred world – and win.
“New heroes are born every day at Mt. Baker,” Fenton continued, “but never is this truer than on Banked Slalom Sunday….and 17-year-old Kearney now has his name quilted into the fabric of Mt. Baker history.” With his Mt. Baker finishes, Kearney joins ranks with snowboarding legend Shaun Palmer, who, in 1986, became the first 17-year-old rider ever to win the highly acclaimed event.
The Legendary Banked Slalom – the longest-running snowboard competition in the world – is one of snowboarding’s most prestigious events. “It has no television cameras, no prize money,” said Kearney’s Coach Jason Troth of the event, and a “duct tape trophy for the winners – and yet it attracts the best riders in the world because it embodies the feelings of what snowboarding is…smooth-flowing and fun.
“It takes a combination of lung and leg power, some precision skill and a smooth style to win at Baker,” Troth said, “and Harry showed that he has the full package.”
A two-time Pro Masters Champion at the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom himself, and with nearly 10 years under his belt competing at the Pro and World Cup levels in snowboarding, Troth knows firsthand what it takes to win Pro Events.
This year marked 17-year-old Kearney’s “sixth time competing in the event,” Troth said of Kearney, who “started with a second place finish his first year,” and then went on to win “the two following junior division titles.
“With this early success, we had to sit down and decide what would make more sense – winning another junior title, or mixing it up with the best in the world in the pros.”
For Kearney, who “stepped up to the pro division when he was just 15 years old,” this year marked his third attempt at winning in the pro division. Given that last year, Kearney “fell in the finals – and still got ninth place,” Troth said, “we knew he had a shot at winning this year.”
Harry Kearney and his brother, Hagen, 19, have been riding out of Telluride for nine years, and training for the past seven years under the guidance of Troth, who teaches Mind-Body Engineering, a unique combination of individual and group meditations, tai chi and postural-based corrective and functional exercises.
“Research is now showing that many forms of modern exercise place excess stress on human physiology,” said Troth, who runs Mind-Body Engineering out of Telluride’s Nugget Building. “I teach my athletes and clients that if you want to be fit, we must address the major imbalances before we try to get strong; otherwise we are just reinforcing the pre-existing imbalances.”
Of his work with the two Kearneys, he said, “We have been building our foundation for years now.”
Sometimes the fixes are simple: “Many times an athlete just needs to learn to breathe better, rest better, eat better and ‘work-in’ rather than ‘work-out,’ to get stronger.”
The Mind-Body Engineering system Troth has used with the Kearney brothers “will work for anyone.
“It’s a common sense approach, but it is based on high-level assessment of individual needs, and not a cookie-cutter system,” he said, to which end, it focuses on everything from diet and lifestyle coaching to adrenal support and digestive-detox programs.
Last season both Kearneys competed in all disciplines at both USSA Rev Tour and NorAm events, moving one step closer to World Cup starts and Olympic qualifiers.
In December 2010, Troth worked with both Kearneys, when they participated in the weeklong US SBX team training camp prior to the SBX World Cup race in Telluride. “This gave them both the opportunity to show the US team coaches what they are capable of, and to ride alongside great talent,” he said.
After a strong series of finishes in this year’s NorAms and Rev tour events, Hagen Kearney qualified 16th at last week’s Grand Prix Boardercross Event, at the Canyons in Park City. “This was a solid performance against top World Cup and Olympian riders,” Troth said.
Now both Kearneys, he said, “are set to make their mark on professional snowboarding, with solid skills in all disciplines, including big mountain freeriding, boardercross, Pipe and Slopestyle.
“They’re such good riders, they’re both able to mix with the best in the world.”
On the heels of his historic Feb. 13 win, Harry Kearney said this week: “It's really good to have the training and work I've been doing pay off like this. The feeling of winning was incredible! Indescribable, really. Huge thanks to my family, my parents – and to Jason for the endless support.
“It’s absolutely incredible.”