I’ve long liked to examine the U16 Regional Junior Championships, once known as the Junior Olympics, for a glimpse of who might excel at the national title meet — and even those who might land a spot on the World Cup.

At the Rocky/Central U16 Junior Championships in mid-March in Vail, Hannah Soria of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club was the lone skier to score top-five finishes in all four disciplines, tallying a first in GS, a second in downhill, a second in super G and a third in slalom.

Those who earned three top-fives included three from the West and two from Rocky/Central. Lily Fitzgerald (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, and pictured above, in a Heather Black photo) was third in slalom, fourth in super G and GS; Madison Hoffman from Rowmark was second in slalom, third in super G and fifth in GS; Gretchen Pavelich was first in downhill. Her strong finishes placed her second overall behind Soria. Meanwhile, Alice Robinson from Sugar Bowl Academy was first in GS, first in slalom and fifth in GS as SSCV’s Michaela Strizencova was fourth in downhill, fourth in super G and fourth in slalom.

Rowmark’s Scott Bocock was third in GS and fourth in super G and fourth in slalom. Taylor Brandt of Vail was third in downhill, third in super G and fourth in GS.

Cleo Braun from SSCV was second in GS and second in slalom. Mammoth’s Barrett Calvin was first in GS and second in super G. Tatum Coutu from Burke Mountain Academy was second in GS and first in slalom. Burke Fancher (SSCV) won the slalom and was third in downhill. AJ Hurt from Squaw Valley was second in super G and third in GS.

Gus Leblanc (SSCV) was second in downhill and third in GS. Samantha McClellan from the Green Mountain Valley School was third in slalom and third in GS.

Ainsley Proffit of SSCV was fifth in super G and fifth in slalom; Bennett Snyder from Sun Valley was second in GS and second in slalom. Hannah Trudeau, representing the Waterville Valley BBTS, was first in GS and fifth in slalom, and Alix Wilkinson (Intermountain) was first in super G and second in GS.

Seems like those listed above should have carried the big weight at Nationals. But then, as a good friend and former editor and former Ski Racing publisher Don Metivier often said: “That’s why they hold the races.”

Benjamin Ritchie from GMVS successfully defended his 2015 U16 slalom crown, claiming both runs of the U16 Nationals at Snowbird on March 30, and winning by a margin of Shiffrin vintage. Diego Holscher of Stratton Mountain School finished second despite facing a challenging second run where the Eastern Regional overall champion couldn’t manage to catch Ritchie.

Bennett Snyder posted two solid runs to place fifth and seventh, combining for the third-place finish. Cole Puckett reversed the single-run placings finishing seventh and then fifth for fourth place, about a tenth behind Snyder. Snyder had been second twice in the Western regional meet while Puckett had finished second in slalom in the Rocky/Central U16 test behind Fancher, the sixth-place finisher in Snowbird.

It was a two-girl battle for the women’s slalom crown with Madison Hoffman edging AJ Hurt by three hundredths for the win.

Run of the day, however, probably went to Gretchen Pavelich from SSCV taking the second heat rather handily (0.73). The problem was the first run, where she finished 21st. She climbed to seventh, putting her in line with her regional results in which she was either sixth or eighth in all four competitions.

Third on championship day went to Olivia Holm (Stratton Mountain School) with Cleo Braun in fourth and Tatum Coutu in fifth. Holm had not fared well in the Eastern regional scoring — just a sixth in GS. Braun had finished second in both the Rocky/Central technical races and seventh in the two longer events. Coutu had won the Eastern regional slalom and posted second in the GS.

Super G day saw some interesting attacks from the back. Although Scott Bocock, the winner, was no surprise, as the third seed in the race; and third-finishing Donovan McKee from Gould Academy started in the top 10 with fourth place going to fifth-starting Gus LeBlanc. Even the tie for fifth between Burke Fancher and Maxwell Timm each started in the mid teens. But in second place in the title super G was slalom winner Benjamin Ritchie wearing bib No. 38. It was his first super G of the season and the fifth of his career. The fact that there had been no downhill in the East and limited super G didn’t appear to be a detriment.

Bocock earned his stripes in the Western Regionals, where he was fourth in SG and slalom and third in GS. LeBlanc was second in the Rocky-Central downhill, and Fancher had been third in the same race; Timm was sixth in that regional contest.

And the ladies? They were awesome. First went to Sarah Rowe (Mont Ripley Race Team) from the 31st start, and second to Alice Robinson from start 25. The first and second starters, Caroline Jones from SSCV and Ainsley Proffit, respectively, finished third and fourth. Cleo Braun posted fifth. Rowe had been third in the Rocky/Central GS. Robinson was a double winner in the Western Regionals, but in slalom and GS, with a fifth in super G. Jones had been 11th in both the Rocky/Central super G and downhill. Proffit had been fifth in each of those same races.

Diego Holscher won the men’s GS title by nearly a half second over Ritchie, who notched his fourth medal (two gold, two silver) for the Nationals. Bennett Snyder was third for the second time of the week. NYSEF‘s Mathieu Cote was fourth, and Max Bervy from SSCV fifth.

Alice Robinson got the women’s GS win narrowly over Alix Wilkinson. Brianna Trudeau was third, Madison Hoffman fourth and Cleo Braun fifth. Hannah Soria, a consensus favorite, finished sixth.

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Hank McKee
Senior Editor
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In memoriam: The veteran of the staff, McKee started with Ski Racing in 1980. Over the seasons, he covered virtually every aspect of the sport, from the pro tours to junior racing, freestyle and World Cup alpine competition. He wrote the first national stories for many U.S. team stars, and was still around to report on their retirements. “Longevity has its rewards,” he said, “but it’s a slow process.”
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