U.S. Alpine Championships: Carrabassett Valley Academy trio takes on Nationals

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CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Sam Conzelman, Emma Kearing and Rylee McCormack gave Carrabassett Valley Academy bragging rights by qualifying for the U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf.

“This was our goal, and it’s so cool that all three of us made it,” Kearing said. “We’re the only academy that has three girls in this.”

Making the U.S. Alpine Championships is the latest accomplishment in a journey McCormack, Kearing and Conzelman are enjoying together.

Kearing and McCormack have known each other since they were 3 years old, and started the CVA weekend program about five years later. Conzelman came along about a year later.

The three high-school juniors are in their first years of FIS eligibility. They earned their spots at U.S. Nationals by racking up points at CVA’s races throughout the season.

“It’s fun knowing people when you make it into big events, being able to rely on them and talk about the course together, and then talk about it after,” Kearing said. “It’s just cool to experience with my two best friends.”

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Conzelman said she found out that she qualified for nationals the same day she broke her hand doing giant slalom training on Sugarloaf’s Narrow Gauge trail. She was still sporting a blue cast Saturday when she flew down that same hill during the women’s super-G.

She, along with Kearing and McCormack, skied down Narrow Gauge as snow seeds, which means they went before the top racers to clear the course and make it faster.

Conzelman, broken hand and all, ended up finishing 19th overall.

“I brought ski pole and molded it to the pole,” Conzelman said. “I wasn’t going to let it take me out of skiing.”

Kearing finished 26th. McCormack was one of the 13 female skiers who were tamed by Narrow Gauge on Saturday and received DNFs (Did Not Finish).

The trio are obviously familiar with Narrow Gauge since Sugarloaf is their home mountain, and even raced it earlier in the week during NorAms, but they started higher than they are accustomed.

“It was fast,” Kearing said. “We started above Skyline; the past few days we’ve been starting above Super Quad, so we got that extra speed going in. I’ve never done it, I’ve never started from up there.”

“It was crazy fun,” Conzelman said. “I love doing speed (races).”

The three girls’ closeness extends to their skiing results.

“It’s great because we’re really good friends,” Kearing said, “and then up here (on the slopes), we’re always going back and forth. Like one person will win one run, the next will win another run. It goes back and forth.”

While CVA has bragging rights at Nationals, there are no bragging rights among the friends.

“You don’t really mention it because other people feel badly,” Conzelman said. “You’re like, “Oh, nice job, I feel bad that I beat you because you’re my best friend.”

Bobcat skis first

The first skier of the U.S. Alpine Championships was Bates College’s Kelsey Chenoweth.

The senior from Stowe, Vermont, was the first snow seed to go down Narrow Gauge at the start of the women’s super-G on Saturday.

“We qualified for the tech events, and then we had the option to do the speed,” Chenoweth said. “I said, ‘Why not?’ First super-G in over four years.”

Chenoweth finished 23rd out of 34 finishers in the super-G.

“It was really fun. Awesome time. Really fast, really fun,” Chenoweth said. “It’s a perfect way to end my college career.”

One of Chenoweth’s Bates teammates, junior Hannah Johnson (Incline Village, Nevada), also tried out the super-G on Saturday.

“Normally college kids don’t race speed events, but wanted to do it for fun. This was actually my second super-G race in three years,” Johnson said. “It was awesome, super-fun. I’m not used to going that fast.”

Johnson enjoys skiing at the U.S. Alpine Championships.

“I’ve done U.S. Nationals the past few years. It’s always just an incredible event to go to. It’s really special because it feels like very legit, like you get credentials and you get all this stuff.

“I think Sugarloaf this year, it seems like they’re doing an awesome job.”

Knowledge is power, usually

Sugarloaf provides a home-slope advantage for Carrabassett Valley Academy skiers and alumni, such as Conzelman, Kearing, McCormack and Sam Morse, who placed fourth and was the junior champion in the men’s super-G on Saturday.

“Yeah, for sure,” Morse said. “You kind of know where the hill pulls, and can understand what parts are difficult, how certain sets might react.”

But sometimes intimate knowledge can be a detriment.

“There’s also something that comes with not knowing, which is nice sometimes,” Morse said. “It is tough knowing so much about it in certain ways, because then you know, like, oh, man, I’m going to get laid here, versus if you’re coming through for your first time, you kind of have the ignorant bliss.”

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Complete coverage of the the U.S. Alpine Championships includes:

Race and skier stories
Live updates during the races
Race schedule
How to navigate the Narrow Guage at Sugarloaf

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