Whitewater skiers embrace new challenge

Nelson's Whitewater Ski Team’s K1 and K2 skiers are making history.

Whitewater ski team racer Oso Punchard edges into third place in the B finals at the first official K1 skier cross event in the Kootenay Zone.

Whitewater ski team racer Oso Punchard edges into third place in the B finals at the first official K1 skier cross event in the Kootenay Zone.

The Whitewater Ski Team’s K1 and K2 skiers are making history.

Earlier this month four female athletes —  Oso Punchard, Haley Mitchell, Savannah Leishman and Cheyanne Stevens — participated in the Kootenay zone’s first ever official K1 skier cross event in Fernie.

“Skier cross is going to add a whole new level of excitement to the sport,” said Whitewater coach Al Bull. “It’s fast and it’s fun. The kids race four at a time so the pressure is on, but by the end of each race they’ve made new friends.”

Punchard, 11, survived three heats to take third place in the B finals.

Day two saw the girls compete in three SL events with the following results: Mitchell 24, 8, 12; Stevens 19, 23, 19; Punchard 20, 19, 22; Leishman 13, 14, 14.

“The team has had a phenomenal race season already but it’s far from over,” said Bull. “K1s still have the provincials ahead of them at Big White and the zone finals at Whitewater. Some of our racers are also going to the BC Winter Games [this weekend] and the Whistler Cup.”

Meanwhile, the Whitewater K2 team headed to Apex for a four-day GS and SL provincial race series where they went toe to toe with the best 13-15 year old ski racers in BC.

The conditions were challenging and the competition was extremely stiff as the well-oiled and heavily financed race factories from the coast and Okanagan zones, Whistler and Fernie sent their best athletes to compete.

In total, 160 athletes from 20 clubs competed and Whitewater athletes represented themselves extremely well.

The boys’ results were: Jamis Beatty 13th and 16th with two DNFs; Harper Henderson 34, 36, 45, DNF; and Liam Osak 46, 50, 52, DNF. The K2’s lone female competitor, Paisley Randell, finished 36, 37, 44, 49.

Head coach Dylan Henderson was thrilled with the team’s results.

“Our athletes laid it all on the line every race,” he said. “There was absolutely no holding back and each racer achieved personal bests in at least one discipline at these races.”

The K2s are back training at Whitewater until they head to Panorama for the super G and skier cross provincial championships starting February 29.

“This will be the first time any of our athletes will be competing in either of these disciplines and they are ready to amp up the speed in super G and mix it up in the skier cross,” said Henderson. “It’s gonna be a super exciting race series at Panorama.”