Mammoth’s Riffel second in Women’s, and top U.S. ladies finisher
Only a few days shy of his 30th birthday, Mammoth’s Johnny Teller got to open one big present early after winning Friday’s Ski Cross event at the Sprint Grand Prix at the Canyons Resort in Utah.
“I like to say I’m 30 years young,” Teller told ESPN.com. “I’m still 18 at heart, though.” Of course, seeing two of his teenage Ski Cross students alongside him on the podium Friday no doubt made him feel a tad older. Teller previously coached Tyler Wallasch in football back home, and Friday he had Wallasch, who’s 18 both at heart and in age, chasing him down Canyon’s Doc’s Run for second place on the podium. Canada’s Stanley Hayer was third in the competition in Park City, Utah.
Another Mammoth Lakes product, Madeline Riffel, also 18, claimed second in the women’s final, but went on to take the U.S. title as the top American finisher.
“John Teller is kind of my idol and mentor and got me in the sport,” Wallasch said. “(Sharing a podium) honestly, growing up, is what you kind of dream of. It’s a dream come true and hopefully I can keep it going, and keep up with him.”
Riffel, who has been in Teller’s Ski Cross camp the past two years, was working hard to stay up on her skis in the women’s final, but ultimately couldn’t keep up with reigning six-time world champion Ophelie David of France, who made another fast start and navigated some of the courses trickier spots during the crash-laden afternoon.
Riffel nearly went off the course in the finals and had to pull herself forward on her skis to avoid going into the protective barricades. Nonetheless, she powered through the course, securely finishing behind David. “I didn’t think I had a shot,” she said. “When I crossed the finish line, I saw Ophie and nobody else and was so excited.”
Wallasch, meanwhile, got his fall out of the way during a training run Friday.
“I got a little close to the net and didn’t want to do it again,” Wallasch said, still feeling a bit sore. “I got my confidence back after the first heat and felt better.”
He wouldn’t have made the finals were it not for a key pass in the semifinal heat.
“I was in third and had to reach for the finish,” Wallasch said. “I missed my chance at the top of the course to pass. I had to be patient and was lucky to have a chance at the bottom and was able to capitalize on it.”
In Snowboard Cross, another Mammoth connection topped yet another podium. Trevor Jacob, 19, who grew up in Mammoth Lakes, took another giant leap to national Snowboard Cross champion, passing Hagen Kearney on the final jump Saturday to claim the Snowboard Cross title. It was only the third career race for Jacob, who trains with the U.S. team, but isn’t yet a member, though fellow competitor Alex Deibold said he thinks Jacob has “just as good a chance at qualifying for the Olympics as any of the guys who have been on the team for five, six years.” Jacob earned a different sort of notoriety for his snowboard jump over a moving train stunt in Lake Tahoe in 2011, which netted him two nights in jail. He was also arrested last year in Ohio during a cross-country train-hopping expedition.
Meanwhile, Teller and company said they plan to celebrate his birthday in Park City before departing Sunday for Norway and the world championships. “I’d like to think I’m a favorite,” said Teller, who won a World Cup earlier this year. “Things are starting to roll right now with my confidence and the way I’m skiing. The Worlds are a different show than here. You’ve got to keep your head in it and know you can do it.” –ESPN.com