So it became official around the middle of March - I pulled a 2nd round invite to Nationals this year, my first year going Open Class. With the insane competition this season I didn't think I would be invited at all, but a 2nd place finish at Sierra at Tahoe in early January all but secured my spot.
This year was so much different than the last two seasons, I decided not to pursue any Slalom or Giant Slalom events, so I was only traveling to Colorado for one event. Last year I was there for an entire week and it was exhausting; This year I would make plans to fly in, compete, and fly out within 2 and a half days. I know the race track, and the practice format only allows for a small two hour window 5 days before our event, so it was no use flying in a week early.
The Open Class qualifications were similar to what I had seen in the FIS Circuit this year, with the exception of the Time Trials; FIS allows you to correct mistakes on a 2nd timed run - USASA gave us ONE. ONE time trial run, ONE run to dial in your fastest time...and ONE mistake would almost guarantee an early trip home without a chance to make adjustments.
Time Trials started at 10:30am sharp, and as we all received our lineup, we all got prepped. Being intimidated by my competition wasn't new to me, after all this is only my third season doing this. A great friend with some wise words taught me how to get over that, but this time things were so much different. The final roster was stacked with XGames competitors, FIS North American Cup champions as well as FIS World Cup competitors. Scattered around the rider area were personal coaches, wax technicians, and insanely fast racers. I briefly thought I was in over my head; I could very well be eliminated at time trials against a field of this caliber - soon my number was called and I was up.
Beep...Beep...Beep...Beep...Beeeeeeeeep - GONE
I boosted over the Wu-Tangs, pumped the rollers and approached the Entry Step-down. My run felt okay aside from a small mistake early in the course, but I had made corrections to try and keep my time as fast as I could. When I crossed the finish line I stayed down at the finish area with the rest of the riders, waiting to see the final roster. When the final roster was stacked, my name was on it! My first year in Open Class, and I'm IN!
We all headed up top to get ready for brackets; most of the riders dropped their boards off with their coaches and wax techs - I grabbed my wax and started prepping as much as I could.
When the final brackets were listed, we all lined up accordingly. USASA brackets are in 6-man format, compared to the FIS 4-man setup. My heat was next, and I took a quick look at the guys I was up against - WOW. One guy from the Winter XGames Boardercross FINALS, and one front runner for the FIS Nor-Am Championship. I chose to come here, so it was all a matter of sucking it up, getting in the gates, and making it into the top three.
Racers Ready...IN FIIIIIIVE SECONDS! ...CLICK
6 men wide, we dropped into the first Wu-tang, and I noticed the crowd shifting over to my race line. I was in the left-most gate, and the course entry funnels directly into my path. If the person in gate 1 doesn't make it to the front of the pack QUICK, they're going to get taken out. By the second Wu-Tang I was running just barely behind the pack. I tried to make a last minute adjustment and ended up railing on an edge and sliding out...GAME OVER. By the time I got moving again it was way too late, a fraction of a second was the only thing that separates riders in time trials, so a mistake like this will cost ANYONE in the heats.
The winner of my heat ended up going on to win all the way up to the Semi Final Round, eventually advancing all the way to Finals. The other two of the top 3 advanced up to Semi Finals as well.
In all, my experience out there was amazing. I was way ahead of where I saw myself this year, and just being able to get in the gates with some of the best racers in the US was more than worth my time and effort. I met some amazing people this year, and I expect things to only get bigger from here. I have so many people to thank for this journey, in fact I'll post something completely separate specifically for you all.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to follow along, stay tuned!