Caldwell Second, U.S. Fourth in China
The U.S. Aerials Ski Team closed out their 2019 Freestyle World Cup season with a double event on Sunday. The day began with a one-jump World Cup individual event in the morning and finished with a team event in the afternoon.
Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Va.) led the Americans and earned her second podium of the weekend, and the season, finishing second in the morning event. “It was really exciting to get back to back podiums here in China,” said Caldwell of her success this weekend. She added, “I have never competed in a World Cup before 9 a.m. in the morning.”
Caldwell shared the podium with China’s Xu Mengtao and Xu Sicun, in first and third respectively.
For the second day in a row, the women were up before the sun. Sunday’s event started with a 4:45 a.m. breakfast for a 5:15 hour-long bus ride to the jump site to be ready for speed checks by 7:25 a.m. Five American women placed in the top 10 in the morning event: Madison Varmette (Stafford, Va.) finished fourth, Morgan Northrop (Haymarket, Va.) finished sixth, Megan Nick (Shelburne, Vt.) finished seventh and Kaila Kuhn (Park City Ski & Snowboard) finished eighth.
“Despite waking up at four in the morning, our team did incredible on the women’s side,” said Caldwell. "We were laughing and having a good time even though we were tired. After the long World Cup season this was an incredible result and I’m really proud of all of our teammates.”
On the men’s side, Nicholas Novak (Stafford, Va.) was the top American, finishing sixth. “Nick was one of the great stories about today, to come back from his crash yesterday and be our top man,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard Head Aerials Coach Todd Ossian. Eric Loughran (Pelham, N.H.) came in ninth and Justin Schoenefeld (Lawrenceburg, Ind.) finished 10th. China’s Jiaxu Sun took the win, Switzerland's Noe Roth finished second, and Belarus’s Anton Kushnir finished third.
Originally the U.S. was slated to put forth three teams for the afternoon team event; however, they ended up fielding two teams. USA 1 was represented by Jonathon Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.), Christopher Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.) and Caldwell. USA 2 was represented by Loughran, Schoenefeld and Winter Vinecki (Salem, Ore.). Schoenefeld, who’s making quite an impression on his first World Cup tour, stomped out a beautiful full-full-full (triple twisting, triple backflip) during the first round of competition, earning a score of 117. “He was deserving of every point of that score,” said Ossian. USA 2 was the top American team, finishing fourth overall, just missing the podium by less than two points.
At the close of the season, the U.S. Aerials Team finishes with four women and three men in the top 10 of the FIS Freestyle Grand Prix and finished second overall for the Nations’ Cup. For the first year of the new quad going into the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, the Aerials Team is set up for success.
“We knew this was going to be a building season,” said U.S. World Cup Aerials Coach Emily Cook. “Going into next season people know what they need to work on and they have the foundation to do that. We’ve been super happy with the last couple of weeks. It’s good to have that foundation moving into the next quad.”
Chris Lillis, who ends this season ranked eighth in the world reflects, “I’m definitely happy that I finished ranked in the top ten in the world. That was a big goal of mine coming into the season. I see a lot of things I can improve on for next year, like coming home with more medals, but I had some really consistent results this year so really excited about that.”