Jona Caney was already stressed as he waited for his run when his friend gave him a tip — whatever you do, ski fast.
That proved to be good advice. On a day that featured plenty of crashes, Caney stayed in control during an impressive run to win the boys 15-18 category at Whitewater’s Junior Freeski Open finals Sunday.
Caney, a 16-year-old Nelson native who captured the win in his first competition of the season following a knee injury, said he was surprised he didn’t eat snow during his run down Whitewater’s Blast hill.
“I was super scared coming into the 360 because [Brendan Kelley] who went before me said he cased it a little bit and said, ‘Go way faster than you think,'” said Caney. “So I came in really fast, super scared, then right in the air I spun my 180 too fast, so I was like, ‘whooooaaa,’ and then so happy once I landed that.”
For anyone not competing, conditions were snowy and festive as a dedicated crowd watched throughout the day.
The 81 athletes, however, had one attempt to navigate a tricky course following qualifying Saturday. Caney, who entered the finals in third place, said Blast is deceptively complex.
“Especially to hit the features on the top section there. Because it’s so steep, and coming off something really big, any cliff really, it’s scary to land it. You just want to shut it down really fast. For people who are just beginning it’s really intimidating,” said Caney.
“Also just standing at the top of any comp run, you’re scared. Really scared. You’re hoping for the best.”
Caney’s score of 37.03 was the highest of the day. He finished ahead of Sol Butler of South Slocan and third-place Nelson native Ben Woodward.
Meanwhile, Calgary’s Ava Prosser took first in the girls 15-18 category. Just three competitors took part in the category, with most of Whitewater’s junior team still en route from a trip to Andorra.
Still, Prosser was happy with her first win of the season.
“It was pretty good,” said the 15-year-old. “I missed a few hits. I stayed on my feet, so it turned out well.”
Calgary’s Katja Ewart was second followed by Fernie’s Astrid Bloemink.
Other winners included: Rossland’s Simon Hillis (boys 12-14); Rossland’s Erin Flood (girls 12-14); Rossland’s Xander Bankes (boys 7-11); and Nelson’s Cayenne Caney (girls 7-11).
Whitewater’s junior team also had a successful visit to Grandvalira, Andorra for the Freeride Junior World Championships on Thursday.
Nigel Ziegler finished second in the men’s ski event, while his Whitewater teammate Sam Kuch was fourth. Whistler’s Jackson Bathgate was first atop the 28-skier field.
Other Canadians included Tom Peiffer in 12th and Jeff Ashton in 21st.
Whitewater’s Haley Cooke had Canada’s best result on the women’s side with an eighth-place finish. Savannah Leishman, who also competes at Whitewater, was 12th in the 14-skier field.