KILLINGTON, Vermont ??вЂќ Vermont native Hannah Kearney grabbed her second U.S. title of the weekend at Killington Resort during the Nature Valley Freestyle Challenge dual moguls event, which wrapped the 2006 Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships. Newcomer Sho Kashima, 19, from Zephyr Cove, Nev., out-skied a slew of U.S. national team skiers ??вЂњ including a finals race against David Babic (Washington, VT) ??вЂњ to win his first U.S. title.
“It always feels good to win, but it feels especially good today ??вЂњ to end the year on such a positive note ??вЂњ after having such a tough and disappointing season,” said Kearney, the 2005 Worlds champ and three time World Cup winner. “I put down five runs today and two the day before yesterday that were the cleanest, most consistent of my season and I was really happy to have that.”
Kearney, 20, won the individual U.S. moguls title Friday for the second time in her career. She also won at nationals in Missoula, Mont., in 2003. However, this was the first dual moguls title of her career. Kearney attributed some of her success to her increased physical training last summer, which allowed her to push through the marathon of a duals moguls competition.
“I like dual moguls because it’s really competitive,” said Kearney. “Having someone skiing next to you, racing you, pushes you to limits you might not push for otherwise??В¦ I was really impressed with everyone’s skiing today. I felt like the other skiers were really gunning for me, but I just tried to ski my own race and it paid off.”
Said U.S. Moguls Technical Coach Liz McIntyre, “It’s really hard to win at nationals. You’ve got athletes from all over the country gunning for you ??вЂњ especially when you’re a national team member. It’s a different environment with different pressure, so it was really great to see Hannah step up to that challenge.”
Kashima knows exactly what it’s like to go for broke against national team athletes at the U.S. Championships. He’s participated four times now, finally earning his first win. Kashima placed seventh in the individual moguls competition Friday.
“I know I was competing against the top athletes in the country,” said Kashima, “so I just tried to let it rip, ski as fast as I can, and take the bottom air as huge as possible.”
Kashima admitted he was a little taken off-guard by the day’s win, but McIntyre noted Kashima has been an athletes the coaches have had their eyes on for awhile now.
“We knew Sho was an up-and-comer,” said McIntyre. “To see him ski so well along with his skill package is really heartening. It’s been neat to watch him come up through the ranks. It shows what a strong national program we have.”
2006 SPRINT U.S. FREESTYLE CHAMPIONSHIPS
MARCH 26, 2006
NATURE VALLEY FREESTYLE CHALLENGE ??вЂњ DUAL MOGULS
1. Sho Kashima, Zephyr Cove, Nev.
2. David Babic, Washington, Vt.
3. Bryon Wilson, S. Taylorsville, Utah
4. David DiGravio, Farmington, Maine
1. Hannah Kearney, Norwich, Vt.
2. Sarah Ruckriegle, Breckenridge, Colo.
3. McKenzy Golding, Reno, Nev.
4. Caterina Mader, Steamboat Springs, Colo.