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Snowboarding: Navigating the slopes for a medal

Ranked 22nd going into the competition, Alexandria's Cole Sorenson defied the odds at the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) National Championships March 30-April 9, flying down the slopes at Copper Mountain, Color...

Sorenson
Cole Sorenson competed at the national event in the Menehune boys' division, posting a best score of 81 in his slopestyle event at nationals to place third overall. (Contributed)

Ranked 22nd going into the competition, Alexandria's Cole Sorenson defied the odds at the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) National Championships March 30-April 9, flying down the slopes at Copper Mountain, Colorado to place third in the Menehune boys' (ages 10-11) division.

Sorenson earned a spot on the podium for his efforts, finishing with a best score of 81 as Justus Henkes of San Diego, California claimed the top spot with an 87.7 and Alex Kirkland of St. Louis Park was second with an 83.7 in the field of 49 competitors.

"The course was set up with two long rail features and then progressed into a three-jump line with a massive 20-plus foot quarter pipe at the base," said coach Douglas Hegg. "The jumps were huge on the main jump line (24, 30 and 36-feet). Most competitors Cole's age don't have the size to get going fast enough to clear the big jump line, so most used the middle line (22, 28 and 32-feet).

"Scores were significantly lower if they didn't hit the main line, so nearly all went for the middle line."

Sorenson's first run was his best, with scores of 78, 82 and 83 from the three judges, averaging an 81. His second run was much lower when he failed to clear the last jump.

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"The big move for Cole is in large part due to the fact that the Alt Region is extremely competitive compared to some of the other regions," said Hegg. "Since they take the top-scoring individual from each region and fill the remaining slots based on national rankings, if you're in a weak region with fewer competitors, you can score high and make it to nationals.

"The other part was that the course was very punishing with a number of extremely good riders crashing on the landings, and some being severely hurt.

"The kids were having trouble carrying enough speed to clear the jumps, and when they land on the "knuckle" (the top of the jump rather than the downslope) it really hurts and they usually fall.

"The competition was truly an experience," he added. "[A total of] 1,680 competitors attended the snowboard nationals in age groups from under 8 to 60+. All the kids did great, and it was fun to see how well they did in competition against the mountain regions.

"Weather and snow conditions were nearly perfect for spring, with temps generally in the mid 40s with plenty of sunshine.

"There was one snow delay on Tuesday, resulting in the Menehune girls' Rail Jam being rescheduled to Thursday."

In all, Foundation 725, the Alexandria Area snowboarding club, sent six competitors to the national event.

Competing in the Slopestyle event, Ella Sorenson, who came in to the competition ranked eighth nationally, finished 12th in the Grommet girls' (ages 8-9) division, while George Cavers, ranked 16th, placed 12th in the Ruggie boys' (8-younger). Connor Cavers was ranked 59th coming in to the Grommet boys' (8-9) division and finished 39th, while Stormy Hegg, ranked No. 12, placed 16th in the Menehune girls' (10-11) division and Logan Hegg, ranked No. 32, placed 17th in the Grommet boys' (8-9) division.

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George Cavers and Connor Cavers both added competitions in the Rail Jam division, finishing 25th and 15th respectively. Logan Hegg, also entered in this competition, did not start due to an injury.

"Logan was the only Alexandria competitor to suffer an injury, going down in the Rail Jam practice," said his father. "His board slipped out on a rail and he belly flopped on the snow, hitting his head. He suffered a mild concussion and was unable to finish the competition.

"The course design was difficult and there were numerous injuries in nearly all events. Unfortunately, Logan suffered one of those injuries."

Although Minnesota is not noted for its mountainous terrain, it ranks among the largest and most competitive of the regions. It was well represented at the national competition, with more than 80 competitors, including the national champions in the Women's Open Slalom and Giant Slalom, the Men's Open Rail Jam as well as the boys' Menehune (10-11) Slalom champion, the Youth Men's (14-15) Slalom and Giant Slalom champion and the Menehune boys' overall national champion (overall all five events - slalom, giant slalom, slopestyle, half pipe and boardercross) in Alex Kirkland of St. Louis Park.

Invitations to the National Championships are given to the top athlete from each of the 30 regional competitions, with the remaining positions in each event filled based on national rankings.

 Foundation 725 is a training program for any level of snowboarding competitor and holds most of its training at Andes Tower Hills.

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