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Mt. Baker Banked Slalom Qualifier = Local Success

Mt. Baker, WA – Sunny skies and soft groomers made for the ultimate race-day mix for Monday’s Mt. Baker Banked Slalom Locals Qualifier. The stakes were high; with 200 racers and only twenty qualifying spots for the Legendary Banked Slalom, it proved to be an all-or-nothing kind of day.null2.jpg2.jpg3.jpg

Erika Kennedy (a.k.a. “Hank’s Mom”) Autumn Brown, and Anne Crews-Ayling get ready to race for the Women’s masters qualifying spot.

After an early 9 a.m. registration, racers were given their numbers and allowed one inspection side-slip run. My initial thoughts (especially after riding the gnarly Alpental Smash Life Bank Slalom course a few days prior) was that the course would be a breeze; fast and smooth… But as the day progressed, the banks grew and the turns got more rutted with each rider.

“Survive the first few turns and you can make up your speed lower down in the course,” General Manager Gwen Howat told me just before it was my time to ride. Nerves were high as I made my way into the start gate, essentially a wooden hut – the entrance appropriately labeled with the choice words: “Say Your Prayers.” Looking down at the first turn my only thought was that if stayed on my feet, I might have a good chance. The course was pretty haggard at this point, after the Masters, Juniors, and Men’s Pro divisions had already made their way through the turns.

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“Dropping.” A rider from the Men’s Pro category makes his way into the first set of turns.

“Rider in five, four, three, two, one…Go!” I launched myself out of the start gate and into the first few turns – survival turns – as others were calling them. Legs burning halfway through, one was forced to focus solely on the riding and the breathing; steadying my breath as I flew around the high corners seemed to be trying to take the upper hand. Crossing the finish line, I was greeting by friendly smiles and congradulations; I had made it through with a solid time – 1:17. Nothing brings together a mountain community better than some good ol’ fashion competition.

The other ladies finished their runs shortly after, followed by the large group of Older Mens Amatuers as the day wound down and the sun began its slow descent behind the hills. Craig Newbury held the fastest time of the day with a 1:08 and claiming the spot held for Men’s Pro. Jack Freysinger (with a time of 1:11) took the win for the Men’s Older Am’s followed by Miss Kari Hoss (1:15) who won her spot into the Women’s Pro category. Odin Barnett and Hank Kennedy both came close behind in the Younger Amateurs and Junior categories with a time of 1:16 and Jennica Lowell (hey, thats me!) took the win for the Women’s Amateurs with a race time of 1:17. Maggie Vogt claimed a close win in the Women’s Masters with a time of 1:22, holding it down for Baker’s lovely lady shredders.

Bluebird race day at Mount Baker – If only the LBS could have the same weather… (not a chance.)

Check out the Mt. Baker website for more results from the Locals Qualifier – the top twenty well-deserved spots will continue on to the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom taking place Feb. 8th, 9th, and 10th, where they will join the winners from last year’s race as well as lottery winners from earlier in the season. Be sure to head East on 542 in a couple of weeks for the main event.

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