Sunday, March 7, 2010

Back on top!

Windsor, Nova Scotia is the birthplace of hockey, it is also the pumpkin capital of Canada. It is home to some very special people including our very own Alex Duckworth '06 (who, along with her whole family, wanted me to say hi and send some love back to SMS.) Seeing SMS family on the road is always a treat and i am continually blown away at how proud people are of our little school and how fondly they recount their memories here.

Martok SKI located in Windsor is also the "home hill" for snowboard legends and Olympians Mark Fawcett and Trevor Andrews. Neither were present for the event, but during our stay Martok became the "home hill" to what is left of the Olympic Snowboard OC and on only one days rest from Vancouver. We were in good hands! The Chief of Course, the Chief of Comp and the builder of the Olympic halfpipe Steve Petrie all were on hand to host the most eastern SBX FIS Nor-am ever held in North America. I saw old friend, mentor and FIS TD legend (and former colleague of John Casella circa- 1972,) Ted Martin, and I knew this was a very special event, in a very special place.

Jackie Hernandez and I arrived on day one at Martok to sleet, rain, and 40 mph winds. This was the third stop of the Nor-am tour and Jackie is currently ranked in 3rd, after six races. In one hour we had successfully navigated every inch of Ski Martok and were cold and wet . Feeling a bit defeated from our not so warm, warm-up day we decided to see what else we could find to inspire. Sometimes on it is these explorations you can find the time needed off of snow to ease the mind and the body and prepare for what lay ahead. We were both pretty psyched with our find (Jackie kept the puck) and felt ready for the next days competition.

Blustery skies and spitting snow met us early on contest day number one. The course was in great shape and Jackie adjusted quickly to the Nova Scotia snow and wind. This track had far more air than the two previous Nor-am and suited Jackies abilities well. She qualified 2nd against rival from the last two stops Sarah Hunter of Canada. At every race where Sarah has entered she has won time trials and the day. Today would be no different as Jackie eased through round after round only to meet Sarah in the finals and the only American woman to represent. Jackie has been working hard off of snow on her starts and it is really starting to pay off. She got the hole shot through turn one, but into turn two Sarah's experience and tact made room where there was none and snuck by Jackie. Jackie stayed in the draft until the final straight but the uphill winds were too much and Sarah would take home another victory. Jackie was confident and poised with a solid second place on the podium.

Day two was like we were on a whole new planet. What had appeared grey and dreary for three days straight opened up to beautiful views of the northern most tip of the Bay of Fundy. Martok is only a few hundred meters tall but the elevated view above the coast was inspiring and we knew the day was special.

Jackie smoked the first run pack by .75 and beat 70% of the boys with her "gotta win one" attitude. Lane choice in boardercross is determined by your qualifying time and it was apparent that on this course it would be very important. Noone could better the first run score and Jackie had won her first time trial of the Canadian Nor-am stops! In boardercross anything can happen and the focus has to remain pretty intense as you work your way through heats. Often times the fastest rider goes out in the first round or makes a careless error and gets caught in traffic and ends a day early. Jackie was all confidence and smiles and she stayed on target as the heats clicked by. The final stacked up again with Jackie being the only American and Sarah Hunter of Canada set to upset the ship. We had figured that Sarah would take the same lane as yesterday and try to pass Jackie high on turn two as she had done the day before. We were confident that the board was faster and pretty sure Jackie could hold her off. With thirty seconds till gate drop Sarah unexpectedly chose lane four to Jackie's right. This could only mean one thing, the first corner was to the right and if you could make the move inside you would be hard to catch the rest of the way down. The Canadians had likely realized their boards were slower and the only way through would be to force a spot on the inside in turn one. This is never a good spot to be in if you are the next person outside. The person in front has all control and can make your real estate very small in a short period of time. The only counter is to have at least a half board position and close the door right at the gate. The rider on the inside then has to check or dq. With seconds to gate drop i muttered the words but Jackie had already assessed the situation and gave a big smile and nod. Game on! When the gate dropped Jackie exploded from the start and although Sarah was jockying for the inside, Jackie shut the door and Sarah had to check up in order to stay on course. When they left sight out of two Jackie was clear by three and would make it five board lengths by the finish. This was her first win on the Canadian side of the tour and now moves her back into the lead in the Nor-am standings!

Jackie will race twice in Mt Hood next week and then the final stop will be at Tremblant on the 31st for the Nor-am finals. All the points on the line and the field will be deep with gold and silver medalists as well as several international olympians.

The winner of the tour receives a personal spot on the FIS World Cup.

Congrats to Jackie and the hard work she has been putting in leading up to this race. Give her a high five if you see her.



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