Dyer, Stoltzner make the cut on U.S. Ski Team
Steamboat Springs — The best women’s moguls skier in the world bobbled on the last run of her career, just for a second as she spun through a 360 off the last kicker of the course.
Three weeks later, Steamboat Springs skier Lane Stoltzner got a phone call bearing the best news she’d ever heard.
Hannah Kearney went on to win the U.S. Freestyle Skiing national championship with that run, a powerful sendoff into retirement, but that bobble may somehow have opened the door for Stoltzner to realize her dream of being on the U.S. Ski Team.
Whether it was that run or not, Stoltzner was one of a handful of Steamboat Springs skiers who got the big news last week, and she was ecstatic.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to ski for my country. That’s always been a dream and my expectation for myself.”
Ryan Dyer also will join the team this coming season alongside Stoltzner while Steamboat skiers Jeremy Cota and Sophia Schwartz kept their positions on the squad along with and Pat Deneen, who spent several years training with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
The team has yet to be publicly announced.
The calls came Wednesday morning from Matt Gnoza, the newly appointed coach of the U.S. moguls ski team. It wasn’t exactly a surprise for either Stoltzner or Dyer.
Dyer knew he was very likely to make the team after he won the Nor-Am Cup overall championship last season.
Stoltzner, meanwhile, knew she was very likely to make it after she was ranked sixth in the final United States Ski and Snowboard Association rankings, released several weeks ago.
That’s where Kearney’s championship run factors in.
The rankings take into account all the results from the season, and it was Stoltzner’s seventh-place finish in the national championship that bumped her up just enough to finish in the top six, one of several criteria skiers can meet to almost be guaranteed a spot on the team.
A result is given weight in the rankings based on how close a skier finishes to the first-place score in that competition, so that Kearney’s winning score was slightly lower than it could have been made Stoltzner’s finish more valuable, which may have made just enough of a difference in the insanely close battle for that sixth-place spot.
Certainly that was only part of the formula that put Stoltzner on the team after years of heart-wrenching close calls.
She skied very strong in December’s U.S. Ski Team Selections event and earned the first World Cup starts of her career at a pair of events in the United States. In the second one, in Lake Placid, New York, she made the finals and finished 15th. She also finished second on the Nor-Am circuit.
It all added up to an opportunity she’s anticipated for her entire life, and one she’s eager to seize.
“I’m so excited to go out and represent my country and show how great we can be,” she said. “I’m excited to represent my town, my family and everyone else.”
For Dyer, his “made the team” phone call represents a second chance.
He was a member from 2010 to 2013. That experience was a mixture of a good and bad. He started strong and after his first season on the team had earned the right to start the first half of the season on the World Cup.
He was injured after the first event, however, and was never quite the same. He struggled through the next two seasons before getting cut from the team.
He couldn’t bring himself to quit the sport and Wednesday’s call justified his faith. He worked to rebuild his skiing form, began seeing a sports psychologist and absorbed anything he could from a new coach.
That paid off this season as he dominated the Nor-Am circuit, winning it and securing his spot on the squad.
“I’ve never been so excited for an off-season,” he said. “I’m really starting to have a clear direction and to see my potential in the sport, so I’m just glad to be here. I’m glad to have another shot.”
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