USASA Nationals

What a great couple weeks of final training at Copper, CO for the USASA Nationals events!
Jake Johnson and Neo Emery traveled down to Copper Mountain Colorado with Freeride Program snowboard coach Aaron Hallenbeck to compete in USASA National Championships. Jake qualified in the 12-13 age division for slopestyle, halfpipe, and rail jam, while Neo made it in the 13-14  age division for slopestyle, halfpipe, and Bordercross. The crew arrived to Colorado a few days early for extra practice on the course features, and were treated to perfect weather and incredible terrain parks. The athletes and Aaron were very impressed by the ability of Woodward and Copper Mountain to maintain a great park for public access. Even though the features were much bigger than Jake and Neo were used to, they stepped up quickly and learned how to take their tricks much bigger than they had previously. 

Neo's competitions came first, beginning with a slopestyle contest in overcast weather. Neo landed his first run in qualifiers, hitting the biggest features with stylish spins and grabs, and his score put him on the bubble to make finals. Unfortunately, Neo wasn't able to up his score in his second run, and enough people did to push him out of finals. He finished 27th out of 75
The next day, Neo was up again for a boardercross race. Neo was running the course very fast and smooth through practice. Once heats began, however, things didn't go his way. A snowboarder twice his size was able to make a pass on the inside of a berm, and then use his extra weight to keep the lead, and Neo was eliminated, finishing in 41st. 
To finish his trifecta of events, Neo competed in halfpipe on a very snowy morning. Conditions in the halfpipe were slow for most riders, but Aaron had Neo's board waxed to perfection, and Neo was letting it run. He had some of the biggest airs in the event, linking beautiful grabs high above the lip. Unfortunately, Neo put a hand down on his front-side 540, and finished 42nd out of 47. 
With Neo all finished with his events, it was time for Jake to close it down for the Jackson Hole Freeride Program. His first event was a Rail Jam at night under the lights and snow. In qualifiers, Jake was putting down technical tricks effortlessly. However, he took a hard fall to his chest, and wasn't able to finish the event. 
Next, Jake was up for slopestyle in a very stacked field. Jake used smart competition strategy, and put down a run he knew he could land, with extra pop and style. After two nearly perfect runs, Jake missed the finals, but was super proud of his accomplishment. He finished 25th out of 91 competitors. 
The final event was half pipe, and the weather was perfect. Jake was struggling with this pipe earlier in the week, but turned it on for the competition. He stomped his first run, and barely fell on his second. While he again missed finals, the stoked was high with a finish in 16th out of 54. 

Rocky Vertone left a day early to train on the course before Nationals began.  We familiarized ourselves with the course and slowly began to work towards his Slopestyle and Halfpipe competition runs. 
During halfpipe practice Rocky under-rotated a Right 540 and landed on his already bruised hip and knocked the wind out of him.  He was taken to the bottom in a ski patrol sled, but soon after returned to the course to do his competition run.  He put down a clean safety run with a Left 540 on his first run.  During his second run he boosted nearly 10’ out of the pipe on his first hit which was arguable one of the biggest airs of his division.  A couple hits later, he under-rotated a Left 540 and was unable to complete his planned run.  All in all he finished 27th and this was a big success for Rocky to return from a violent slam and still compete. 
On Slopestyle day Rocky landed a very clean first run with a switch 540, two very smooth 360’s and technical rail tricks.  His second run was off to a great start, but he came up a bit short on a corked 720 on the third jump and slid out on his landing.  With his first run scoring higher, he ended up in 30th place out of 83 skiers.  This is a great finish considering the quality of the field and our local lack of sizeable terrain features. 

Skier X was a thrilling day with Rocky starting at the back of the pack and making it all the way to the quarter-finals.  He had a slow time trial, but managed to pull hard out of the gate and won the hole-shot in his first two races.  In the third race he had the inside start gate and pulled hard out of the gate to take and maintain the second place position throughout the entire course.   During the quarterfinals Rocky was given the outside gate and was fighting from third place to pass and make his way to the semifinals, but the choppy brake bumps on turn four bounced him off-balance and sent him to his hip.  This landed Rocky in 16th overall. 
The entire week was filled with learning experiences and we return to Jackson with our goals set for next season.  The Jackson Hole Ski Club Freeride Program is extremely proud of the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of all of these young athletes.