The week before last, Mazie Hayden and Mckenna Latt traveled to Chiesa in Valmalenco, Itlay to represent the United States in the Junior World Championships for SkiCross. Junior Worlds allow the next generation of athletes to compete in preparation for Europa Cup and World Cup events. The athletes range in age from 21 to Mazie at age 16.
This year's field was one of the most competitive ever with the current adult World Champion Sandra Naslund of Sweden and six other world cup athletes from around Europe all still young enough to compete in Junior Worlds. Just to make sure it was really tough, the warm weather forced race organizers to shorten the course down to about half it's normal length due to a lack of snow. It was short, full of features, and any mistake would be almost impossible to recover from. In addition, the time trials were moved from Friday to Thursday and as a result the athletes were only allowed one full session of training on the course.
In the time trial Mazie had a good start but misjudged her timing on two jumps and lost a good chunk of speed, sneaking into heats on Friday in 14th place. This was Mckenna's first international competition. She had a fairly smooth time trial and finished up in 22nd place.
In the heats on Friday Mazie had a tough draw. She ended up in her first heat with World Champ Sandra Naslund and two strong Russian women. Mazie had a great start and was staying right with Sandra. Going into the first roller section, Mazie had a small miscalculation, bounced off a roller and lost her speed, causing her to fall to the back of the pack in fourth. Mazie worked the rest of the features hard, made a pass into third in the last corner and stretched hard for the finish. Though they had to review the photo finish, Mazie ended up third in the heat. She finished up in 11th place...not bad for the youngest one at the competition!
All in all it was a great first Junior Worlds and both Mazie and Mckenna have the opportunity to qualify a few more times so the future looks bright!
The photos above and below are of Mazie in the start section with the two Russians and Sandra Naslund, and team USA with the Nations Cup for top Freestyle team.