Purgatory skiers earn berths in Nationals

Hannah and Sadie Smith

Herald Staff Report

Imagine winning the mid-amateur qualifier in golf and earning a trip to the Masters. Once there, you are paired with Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson and a field of the best golfers in the world.

Hannah and Sadie Smith, representing the Purgatory Freestyle Ski Team, will have a similar experience in the sport of mogul skiing. Both have been invited to the Marriott Freestyle National Championships.

Nationals will bring together the top U.S. Ski Association freestyle athletes from across the country – including the U.S. Freestyle Team – starting Tuesday in Heavenly Valley, Calif., and running through March 31.

Hannah Smith earned her spot with a 12th-place overall finish in moguls at Junior Nationals two weeks ago. Sadie Smith got the nod based on her second-place dual-mogul finish at the Rocky Mountain Divisional Championships earlier in the year at Steamboat. Both will compete in moguls and dual moguls at Nationals.

Purgatory skiers Natalie Youssef for dual moguls and George McQuinn for aerials also were invited as Rocky Mountain Division allocations for each discipline but declined their spots, citing conflicting engagements. Youssef got the invite as the next-highest-ranked skier after Sadie Smith in the Rocky Mountain Division, and McQuinn earned a spot based on his high marks in aerials at Junior Nationals.

“This is really exciting for these athletes,” said Kirk Rawles, head coach of the Purgatory Freestyle Team. “This can be compared to a snowboard athlete competing against Shawn White or an Alpine racer getting a chance to compete against Lindsay Vonn.”

The freestyle Nationals field will include reigning Olympic and World Cup champion Hannah Kearney and her 23 teammates from the U.S. Freestyle Team. Kirk’s brother Scott Rawles is head coach of the U.S. team.

“It would be really cool for Hannah or Sadie to get paired against Kearney in duals. What a thrill!” Kirk Rawles said.

The senior member of the Purgatory Freestyle Team, Nathan Youssef, finished 79th overall on the national points list, just missing an invitation to Nationals.

“Nathan had a great career with our team, finishing the year strong. He will be missed as our top mogul skier and role model for our younger athletes,” Rawles said.

Nationals will be streamed live online; information can be found at www.ussa.org.

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