It has been a banner year for Nelson’s Sam Kuch who captured second place at the 2015 IFSA North American Junior Freeride Championship in the male 15-18 category. The 17-year-old athlete was one in a mob of Whitewater Freeride athletes who travelled to compete in Grand Targhee, Wyoming last week.
The team was performing well going into the finals and coach Dano Slater wrote to the Star that the skiers were there to “win or blow up trying!”
“Almost all our skiers blew up [wipe out]. Not our normal performance,” he wrote. “Once again our team goes for first or nothing it seems.”
Although Kuch’s fall in the final cost him first place, Kuch said he was the least happy with his first run.
“I didn’t expect to score as high as I did in the first run but an extra air at the end with a little shifty, my coaches said it looked like I was in control,” said Kuch. He said placing second was an amazing experience.
“It was awesome to be there with all my friends, the team,” he said.
Kuch’s second place overall title in North America for the year could prove pivotal for the young skier. There’s is a good chance he will qualify for the 2016 Freeride Junior World Tour in Europe, which teammate Haley Cooke attended last February. While Kuch can compete at the junior levels for one more year, he is now considering following in the ski tracks of Trace Cooke by moving to the Freeride World Qualifiers.
As for the rest of the Whitewater team, Haley Cooke finished sixth in the girls 15-18 category. Sam Woodward and Jeff Ashton placed seventh and 12th respectively in the male 15-18 category which Slater said were “huge advancements” for both athletes.
Chosen by his peers, Brendon Kelly was named the Mayor of Freeride and presented with a massive key. The award recognizes an athlete who “embodies the soul of freeskiing,” according to Slater, and “maintains a good attitude and sense of sportsmanship. It’s truly a honour.”
The award is in memory of freeskiing icon Jim Norm Jack, who was the president of the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association until his death in an avalanche in Stevens Pass three years ago.
In addition to Kuch, Whitewater skiers Jona Caney, Sam Howard, Savannah Leishman, Jesse Thurston, Ben Woodward, Sam Woodward, and Nigel Ziegler all made the list for the first round of invites thanks to their individual results at a combination of regional and national events throughout the 2014/15 season. Haley Cooke, Jeff Ashton, Sol Butler, Brendon Kelly, Liam Kelly and Eli Lutz all qualified on the second round.