Soleil Patterson had her bell rung six weeks ago at a zone slalom race and thought she could kiss goodbye to a trip to Prince George to race in the Teck BC Alpine provincial under-16 provincial championships.
But after clearing concussion protocol last week, there was nothing holding back the 15-year-old from Rossland. Now she's making up for lost time in hurry, and her mastery of the course continued Thursday afternoon on the snowy slopes at Purden Mountain.
Patterson, a member of the Red Mountain Ski Club, won for the third time in four days, claiming her second-straight giant slalom title Thursday after opening the week with first- and second-place finishes in the super-G events.
"I wasn't supposed to come, I haven't skied in a month and a half," said Patterson, who glazed over the one-kilometre long course in one minute 5.27 seconds.
"It's fun to come back that hard. It was surprising because I hadn't trained super-G. I'm not usually very dominant in GS."
Race organizers had to deal with 20 centimetres of fresh snow that started piling up on the hill at 4 a.m. and continued through the noon hour. Ski racers joined race volunteers and Purden staff packing the course so they could race. Because there was so much new snow, skiers were limited to just one run instead of the scheduled two.
After winning Wednesday's two-run GS by nearly three seconds, Patterson was six-tenths of a second quicker than second-place Laura Swafield of Whistler (1:06.47), while Katie Kleckenstein of Whistler was third (1:06.68).
Tiana Gairns of Prince George put down a solid fourth-place run (1:06.81), her best result of the week so far. In other local women's results, Gabriela Willick was 27th (1:10.63) and Maya Medhurst was 48th (1:22.50).
Whistler skiers swept the men's medal podium. Finn Iles won his first event of the week in 1:03.55, followed in rapid succession by Alexander Valentin (1:03.71) and Masashi Tsutsumi (1:03.83). Gavin Rowell was the top male Prince George racer, finishing 13th in 1:07.08, while Noah Jacob was 35th (1:19.29).
Sixty-seven females and 122 males started the race, but many of them didn't finish, tripped up by a challenging course bordered by snakes of deep unstable powder. Twelve women and 16 men did not finish and Shawn Nydegger of Prince George Alpine Ski Team was one of the unfortunates, catching an edge on the fourth-last gate from the finish, a trouble spot for many skiers.
"I was pushing too hard and just ate it," said Nydegger, 15, who was fourth on Wednesday, missing a medal by 11 hundredths of a second.
"Coming into that double, I wasn't on top of things and I almost missed that gate and just barely managed to stop and keep from getting disqualified. The course was good unless you were late and ran into all the sluff, which is pretty much what I did."
Prince George coach Chris Campbell was impressed to see Gairns and Nydegger both post top-10 finishes this week, with Rowell pushing to make it there.
"It's kind of tougher with the conditions and always traveling to races and Shawn has done quite well compared to most of the field elsewhere," said Campbell. "He was so close to the podium [Wednesday] and Tiana laid one down today and finished fourth. Those two are our leaders right now. They'll probably make it to Whistler Cup."
The provincial races are the first involving clubs 15 clubs from all over B.C. since the Purden Downhill, once an annual event, which last happened 12 years ago. Since them, the resort 50 kilometres east of the city has hosted only northern zone races.
"It's just nice to see so many racers at the hill and have the course so nicely-prepared for us," said Nydegger. "BC Alpine and all the volunteers and the sponsors are really supporting us."
Weather permitting, the races continue today at 9 a.m. with the first day of two days of slalom racing.
Mount Seymour Ski Club coach Rob Lahti (a Purden Downhill racer 30 years ago) is hoping the snow will hold off the rest of the week so he can focus exclusively on preparing his seven racers for the slalom course. The U-16 races are a test event for the 2015 Canada Winter Games and Lahti gave high marks to the Purden course which was widened last summer to suit Canada Games protocol. .
"This looks fantastic," said Lahti. "All of us from the other zones are just on a buzz with this great hill. It's nice and wide. It's just right in length for this age -- enough to burn the legs a little but not kill them. It has just the right amount of challenge, with a good variety of terrain and nice steep pitch."
The Canada Winter Games competition will be an under-16 event. Just five men and five women will make the B.C. alpine team.
n Prince George skiers Ella Lawrence, Jordan Ahlstrom and Isabel Gibson, and Alisha Stewart of Fort St. John are competing for the North zone at the B.C. Winter Games this weekend at Hemlock Valley near Mission. Alice Muirhead of Prince George is their coach. Kate Martin and Lucas Gairns, both 13, declined their spots on the team so they could serve as forerunners this week at Purden.
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