Even though Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club freestyle coach Harold Ehnbom says he assured Telluride athletes that their results at last weekend's Rocky Mountain Division mogul event "weren't that important," his TSSC skiers must not have been listening.
In a style befitting Telluride's talented mogul mashers, local athletes dominated the field at the divisional mogul event in Winter Park last Saturday and Sunday. The competition was a "warm-up" to important events on the horizon for the freestyle team's six top skiers, who will travel to Park City, Utah next week to vie for U.S. Ski Team spots and North American Cup series starts.
The first day of the Winter Park competition concluded like so many others in the competitive histories of brothers Jimmy and Joe Discoe, despite the fact that it was the first official competition of the new 2006-07 ski season. Jimmy and Joe Discoe placed first and second, respectively, handily beating the hordes of their regional competitors.
Day one also found teammate Wade Parkinson taking a stab at the top ten, landing at sixth place overall. Page McCargo, representing Telluride's ladies, flashed her team colors on the top ten list as well, finishing 10th.
Other TSSC competitors Zak Watkins and Lindsey Cannon faced tougher starts on the first day of competition, but they didn't let their less-than-ideal performances effect their overall weekend. Cannon came back on Sunday with a vengeance, finishing just one spot behind teammate McCargo to take 14th place overall. Watkins pulled off a similar come-from-behind victory on Sunday, narrowly missing the top five and taking a commendable sixth overall.
"Zak really came out on Sunday and showed everyone how he can ski," Ehnbom said. Watkins is from Durango but trains with TSSC's freestyle team. "And it was a great comeback for Lindsey."
Neither of the Discoe boys nor Parkinson competed in Sunday's competition. A painfully bruised toe kept Parkinson out of his ski boots that day, while the Discoe brothers took Sunday off to rest and recover before hitting the slopes on
Monday for an intensive three-day training camp with U.S. Ski Team coaches.
The camp is a precursor to the upcoming U.S. Ski Team Selection event in Park City, starting Dec. 14. As Ehnbom explained, both Discoes are in prime position for landing a U.S. Ski Team spot.
Cannon, McCargo, Parkinson, and Watkins also have a good shot at gaining a berth on the North American Cup team, just one level below the World Cup.
"All of these skiers have a really solid package right now," Ehnbom said, adding that the next week of at-home practice will concentrate primarily on getting the athletes back into the competitive mind frame. "At this point their technique isn't going to change much but what we are going to encourage them to do is to get into the weight room and out on the slopes so they'll be physically as strong as they can be. All six of them are skiing well right now, so at this point, it's a matter of getting stronger which can breed confidence."
TSSC freestyle team members invited to attend the U.S. Selection event next week represents the largest contingent of Telluride skiers ever qualified to compete in the big-time event. A total of four athletes had previously been the most skiers to attend the U.S. Selections event, more than a decade ago when Ehnbom, Caleb Martin, Orion Helms, and Justine VanHoute were all at the event flying Telluride colors.
"It's a credit to how all these athletes are skiing right now," Ehnbom said. Look for results and coverage of the U.S. Team Selections event in upcoming editions of The Watch.