By Coach Devin Gill
|Riley Plant, Ty Sprock, and Marc Talbott|
Even though Mother Nature has not been the kindest old lady to the Tahoe region this year, SBA has still been able to provide good training for the Athletes even if it was in Colorado or California.
But as the New Year approached and Sugar Bowl was being hit with a tough stretch of warm weather, at a very inconvenient time, the SBA FIS team departed for Jackson, Wyoming! The men's team departed on the first day of 2012 and the women's on the second. The race series started on the fifth, however; the teams departed early in order to acquire some full length GS training on the race hill at Snow King.
It is not often that a team is presented with the opportunity to train on the race hill at a race on the road. Said Mens' head coach Guenther Birgmann, “We put a lot of effort into coming here early to prepare for these peak races, thanks to the parents and the school. I think we got rewarded for that today.” And by rewarded he meant witnessing a dominating performance by the SBA Men’s team.
With the women's race going first, the men started their race knowing SBA Women’s FIS team member Julia Bjorkman was sitting in third place after the first run. The men after the first run were occupying the top three positions in the race, along with holding the better half of the thirty athletes in the flip. Just moments after the men’s first run concluded, Julia laid down a great second run to finish in third place on the women’s side. As the second run began, the SBA men’s team was sitting in a great position to have a very successful race, and they were podium hungry after seeing Julia's success.
As the men started coming down and fans and coaches could watch the results on their phone or computers, SBA athletes were consistently putting themselves on the beginning of the results page. Top twenty results were popping in all over the place. SBA senior Dylan Murtha started us off with a seventeenth place finish, with sophomore Marc Talbott just ahead of him. Riley Plant and Devin Davis were just ahead of them at twelfth and thirteenth, respectively. The next five SBA places were taken by PG athletes, Kiwi Finley Neeson put in a seventh place finish and teammate Ty Sprock just ahead of him in sixth place. Sprock combined with Talbott and Plant to complete a sweep of the J2 Podium.
So before the top five athletes even had their second run, SBA already had completed one sweep. SBA newcomer Derek Strand was sitting in third with Dylan Brooks just ahead of him in second and another Kiwi, Adam Barwood, in first. Derek Strand put down a great second run to move just ahead of Brooks into second place while Barwood once again stayed consistent and won the run to finish off the victory.
"Everyone can take something from this race, the young guys can see how the older guys perform, and the older guys can see how close the younger men are getting to them at a series like this." - Guenther BirgmannDay Two of the GS at Snow King started off for the team knowing that Day One would be hard to follow up. But once again the men’s team showed up with some strong performances by the team members. In Day 2, Riley Plant continued his solid beginning to the year by putting in another second place on the J2 podium. A podium sweep always feels good, so why not go for another on the second day of GS? Dylan brooks had another good performance with a sixth-place finish, and just ahead of him was a newcomer to the podium and another gunner from down under, Finley Neeson in third place. While Adam Barwood was following Day One's win with a second-place finish, Derek Strand secured his first win as an SBA member. In a SBA TV “Podium Talk” interview later on that evening SBA Men’s FIS Coach Jeff Kai said, “Guys are skiing well… basic stuff helps athletes be successful, everybody is working on it, and right now we are seeing some success.”
“With excellent snow and surface conditions during the races it was a great race series for all the girls to gain more experience and confidence for the following FIS races." - Coach Katharina GolikWith the low-snow beginning to the year, SBA athletes have been able to secure good Slalom training in the Race Arena, so the team was feeling pretty solid about moving onto the new discipline. After having one solid GS result, sophomore Julia Bjorkman was the top SBA women’s finisher at seventh place. And once again the men’s team took home nine of the top twenty positions. SBA second year J2 athletes Chuck Klein, Brian Francis, and Marc Talbott took sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth, respectively. Former SBA athlete and current Middlebury Ski Team member, James Clifford put forth a solid fifteenth-place finish with the second fastest time on the second run to move himself into the position. Ty Sprock again took the top spot on the J2 podium with a ninth-place finish; just ahead of him was Finley Neeson in seventh place. SBA graduate Dylan Brooks (2010) was in fourth place. The two winners of the GS races were able to secure the top two spots in first slalom race. Derek Strand was positioned in second place and Adam Barwood took home his second victory of the trip.
Before the respective groups of the SBA teams could head to Colorado and Idaho for the next series of races, the athletes had one more solid in them. The second day of SL featured once again some great skiing from SBA athletes. Julia Bjorkman put in her third top ten finish with an eighth-place result. On the men’s side, they were able to secure ten of the top twenty spots in series final race. SBA senior Dylan Murtha jumped on the board with a sixteenth-place result. Just ahead of him were Brian Francis, Riley Plant, Scott Cooper, and Ty Sprock in fourteenth, thirteenth, twelfth, and eleventh, respectively. Ty and Riley both hopped on their third J2 podium apiece, positioning themselves in second and third. In the top seven places, other teams were able to sneak in just two who weren’t rocking the SBA Blue jackets. Dylan Brooks was in seventh place and Finley Neeson continued his success with a sixth-place finish. Former UNR NCAA athlete and current SBA Men’s FIS coach, Aldo Ballabio came back from a tough first day of SL to be just off the podium in fourth place. Derek Strand continued his solid start as an SBA athlete with a third-place finish. Adam Barwood was SBA’s top athlete on the day throwing down a second-place finish.
With many athletes and groups having different travel and race schedules through the competition season, it is not often that the entire Men and Women’s FIS teams can be in one place. “Everyone can take something from this race, the young guys can see how the older guys perform, and the older guys can see how close the younger men are getting to them at a series like this," said Birgmann. The team atmosphere was on display from everyone who attended Snow King, which was fun and contagious to be around. “With excellent snow and surface conditions during the races it was a great race series for all the girls to gain more experience and confidence for the following FIS races," women’s FIS coach Katharina Golik added about the trip.
We can only hope and be confident that the successes and team atmosphere will continue through the rest of the year!