While Rosey Fletcher was beating the snot out of her slalom competition at the other end of the United States at the USSA National Championships in Sunday River, Maine, Alexander Sorken of Pittsfield, Massachusetts was at the USASA National Championships rocking down a Mammoth Mountain slalom course on his way to the Junior Men’s slalom title in soft boots and a smile.
Watching snowboarders on a race course on freestyle boards is a perfect reminder of how fun running slalom gates used to be back in the days before Alpine turned into a mechanized program for cyborgs (no offense to Rosey Fletcher). While some of that style of racing was going on at Mammoth, it seemed like those having the most fun were rolling freestyle set-ups and racing for the fun of it.
Yeah, the two competing “National Championship” events being held this weekend are separated by a lot more than 47 states. At the USASA Nationals a father and son can both win Gold Medals in the same event. That’s exactly what La Jolla, California’s Mark Livingston and his son Kitt did. It was Kitt’s second Gold in as many days. And it was one more event in Mark’s quest for the Kahuna Overall Title. Wife and mom Carol couldn’t have been more proud.
And they’re not the only family in this competition. In the girls events one last name seems to keep coming up. Anderson. Thanks mostly to three sisters from South Lake Tahoe, California. Yesterday Stacie Anderson won the Slopestyle for girls 12-13, while her little sister Jamie took second in the Menehune girls. Today big sister Joanie joined her sisters in the medal round by taking Gold in the Youth Women’s halfpipe while her sisters Stacie and Jamie both won silver medals in the BoarderCross. They very well could have the family record for medals this week. And dad Joe Anderson couldn’t be happier. “They are very determined kids,” he said. “And we have five more after them.” It’s scary to think about what the Nationals are going to be like in a couple years when all eight of the Anderson kids show up to compete.
In the Jam Men’s halfpipe event the weather decided to turn against the event. A dark cloud rolled in from the West and for a while thunder roared in southern sky. Some even saw some lightening. That didn’t stop the 18-22 year old men. One rider even brought his own cheering section. When Jarreston, New York’s Pete Scheira dropped in his crew began making noise. By the second hit of his final run he was flying close to seven feet out an every hit and put down the highest score of the day, edging Mammoth local Jeff Newby and locking 2000 Jam National Champ Skye King Laskin right out of a podium spot.
With events spread out all over the mountain and running simultaneously, one of the best “events” to attend is the nightly award presentation in the old Gondola wheelhouse. It really is the only time during the day when you can see all the snowboarders in action at the same place. Each evening at 5:30 competitors begin streaming across the Main Lodge parking lot and up the stairs. By the time USASA Executive Director Tom Collins takes the mic the room is packed to standing room only. Collins goes through the more than 20 different groups calling out the names of the top ten and bringing the top three to the podium. Each night 64 different medals are given out. And each night the crowd stays until the last award is handed out.
For USASA founder Chuck Allen, everything is the way it should be. At a Southern California USASA Conference pizza dinner at John’s Pizza Works Thursday night, Allen smiled thinking back to the first National Championships at Snow Valley, California. “Racing is supposed to be fun,” he said. “That first year we tried to run a GS and we had no idea what a GS course was supposed to be. We just put gates here, up on the side of a bank. We had wwhoop-dee-dos, we had jumps, and the East Coast coaches were going crazy. But the kids loved it. And that’s what this is all about.”
The USASA Nationals continue Friday when the Youth and Junior Men take to the slopestyle, the Youth and junior women hit the BoarderCross, and the kids and old folks charge the Alpine events.