Faulhaber, LaBaugh Take USASA Halfpipe Titles
Sunday was another big day at the 2019 USASA National Championships as the top men and women of halfpipe and ski cross competed under perfect blue skies and balmy temperatures at Colorado’s Copper Mountain Resort.
The Copper pipe was once again perfectly cut on Sunday as 32 men and 12 women dropped in for competition. And though the warm temps made for a little slush in the flat bottom, the expert slip crew kept things running smoothly from qualifications right through to finals, where Hanna Faulhaber (Carbondale, Colo.) and Matt LaBaugh (Avon, N.Y.) elevated their riding to take the respective women and men’s 2019 USASA Nationals titles.
Faulhaber, who finished second in Saturday’s Open class rail jam, established herself as the frontrunner for Sunday’s competition even in practice, launching big, stylish airs from the outset of the day. Then, after qualifying first, she stepped it up to another level in the finals, landing her first-ever flare in competition in a run that also included 540s both ways, an alley-oop, and a massive straight air.
“I’m super happy to put down the run that I wanted to do,” said 14-year-old Faulhaber, who represents the Aspen Snowmass Series. “That’s the first time I’ve landed my flare in competition and I’m stoked. I wanted to do my run better in my second run but I landed sketchy on one of my 540s, but I did the flare better which was cool. It’s my first year competing in open class, so to win is nice.”
The silver medal in the women's competition went to Connie Brogden (Riverside, Conn.) coming out of the Rocky Mountain Series while rounding out the podium with the bronze was another RMS rider in Riley Jacobs (Oak Creek, Colo.).
In the men’s competition, there was a whole lot more to be offered by Rocky Mountain Series riders, with 15-year-old LaBaugh leading the way.
“I didn’t do that well in qualifier...I was on the bubble,” LaBaugh said, recounting his day in the pipe, “But in finals, my first run went pretty well and then in my second run I laced it and ended up with the win.”
That gold medal-winning second run for LaBaugh started off with a flat double-backflip on the first hit, into a right-side corked 900, a left corked 900, a right flatspin, and a left flare 720 to finish things all off and earn himself a score of 91.33.
“I had to watch a lot of guys go after me and it was very stressful,” LaBaugh continued, “I didn’t know what was going to happen...Jon (Sallinen, Carbondale, Colo.) had a really good run and just couldn’t put it down as good as he wanted. To win here in my first year competing in Open class is awesome.”
Taking the silver medal went to another 15-year-old Rocky Mountain Series rider, and reigning FIS Junior World Halfpipe Champion Connor Ladd (Lakewood, Colo.) stomped an exceptional first-run score of 87.33. Sallinen, meanwhile, would have to settle for bronze with a score of 84.66.
While there was something of a limited field on hand for ski cross competition at the 2019 USASA Nationals, there was still plenty of excitement on the Copper SX track Sunday, where China’s Ran Hongyun and Stuart Whittier (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) of the Maine Mountain Series stepped up to win gold medals.
Ran lead a large contingent of Chinese athletes on hand in Copper this week, as her nation gears up for hosting the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games in just under three years, and she was able to best top U.S. skier Lauren Salko (Park City, Utah) in a photo finish to take top honors.
Salko, of the Rocky Mountain Series, was clearly disappointed in letting Ran overtake her just before the finish line in Sunday’s competition. Still, she was able to take some positives away from her experience.
“I felt like I skied really well today despite making some mistakes early on,” Salko said. “The track was running well and held up through the whole race despite the warm temperatures. It was a new experience for me being the only American racing against an all-China field and it was great to see so many international athletes come out for the event. There was a lot of tight racing and I was happy to walk away with the silver after a photo finish in the final.”
The bronze medal went to China's Chen Wuyan.
In the men’s competition, it was an all-American big final, with Whittier of the Maine Mountain Series putting on a dominant final run performance that saw him finish nearly two seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Noah Giron (Carson City, Nev.) of the North Tahoe Series. With Whittier taking gold and Giron silver, and bronze would go to Quinn McGunnigle (Phoenixville, Penn.) of the North Atlantic Series.