Vinecki, Lillis U.S. Aerials National Champions
Winter Vinecki (Gaylord, Mich.) and Chris Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.) were both crowned U.S. National Champions as the top U.S. finishers as the nation’s best aerial skiers came together on a snowy Saturday to compete at U.S. National Championships, held at the Olympic Jumping Complex (OTC) in Lake Placid, New York.
Sixty-one athletes from seven nations competed, and the top U.S. results determined National Championship standings. On the line not only was the title of U.S. National Champion, but 2019 World Championships starts. Usually held later in the competition season, this year’s event was pushed up to allow it to be included in World Championship team nomination criteria.
“We are really happy with Winter and Chris’ return to sport after injuries last season. It’s so great to see them both have such a great comeback season. A U.S. National title is such an honor, so big congrats to both of them,” said World Cup Aerials Coach Emily Cook. Madison Varmette (Stafford, Va.) and Kaila Kuhn (Park City Ski & Snowboard) rounded out the women’s U.S. podium in second and third. Jon Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.) and Nick Novak (Prince William, Va.) came in second and third on the men’s side.
“It feels amazing to land some nice jumps when it counts!” said Vinecki. “Becoming the U.S. National Champion is a huge confidence boost for the rest of the season to come! It is even more rewarding though because this event is almost exactly one year since my ACL surgery. Being able to come back strong with a start to my best season yet makes all the hard work worth it!”
The U.S. Aerials Ski Team has been training and competing in Lake Placid for the past two weeks in preparation for World Championships. “We love jumping in Lake Placid, it’s always a great venue and the perfect place for the athletes to prepare for a big event. Having everything in one place at the Olympic Training Center from the gym and sports medicine to meals and recovery is really great for the athletes,” explains Cook.
The team is on track for their two hometown World Championships events - aerials and team aerials will be held under the lights at Utah’s Deer Valley Resort Feb. 6-7. “We now have another competition our belt and are happy that everyone competed with high degree of difficulty. We know we have a few things to clean up and we have time to do that going into Worlds, but we’re really psyched on our team right now,” said Cook.
The men jumped well at Nationals, all competing quad twisting triples, and the team in general is looking to peak at the upcoming Utah events. “We were also really impressed by the quality of jumps that our development pipeline is showing and are excited for the future of aerials in this country,” said Cook.
The aerials team heads back to home snow for the 2019 FIS Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships, presented by Toyota, taking place at Deer Valley Resort, Utah, Feb. 1-10. Teams will be announced January 29.