Lafayette sophomore qualifies for junior nation ski championships again
By: Warren Mayes
At the tender age of 15, Courtney “Coco” Palm has earned another trip to Colorado for the junior skiing championships.
It’s getting to be old hat for the Wildwood teenager. Palm is a four-time repeat qualifier for the USSA Junior Championships in Alpine Racing after competing at the USSA Rocky/Central Regional Championships held over the last weekend in Marquette, Mich. Palm is the first member of the Hidden Valley Ski Team to be invited to the USSA national championship races for a record fourth time.
A sophomore at Lafayette, Palm placed 22nd overall against a field of 65 other competitors, taking 11th in downhill racing and 25th and 20th in Giant Slalom racing during the Central Division championship qualifying races held last weekend. More than 250 athletes competed in the event from Ohio through Minnesota, along with athletes from Canada.
“Being able to qualify four years in a row shows me that even though I live in St. Louis, I’m able to keep up with the best girls in the northern regions,” said Palm after her wins. “The time commitment and effort put in is huge, but my coaches, friends, and family on the team make it constant fun and a great learning environment. I’ve learned that I have a lot of potential to become a really good competitive alpine ski racer.”
The USSA divides its competitive racing circuits into four regions – West, Far West, Rocky/Central, and Eastern. As a result of her finish at Marquette, Palm will be heading to Beaver Creek, Colo., to compete in the USSA Marriott Rocky/Central U16 Junior Championships. The Junior Championships, which will be held from March 3-9, are considered a conduit for the U.S. Ski Team and, until a recent name change, was the Junior Olympics event.
“Courtney really put her heart into the last three days of ski racing and I’m very proud of her,” said Hidden Valley Ski Team coach Craig Spidle, Palm’s primary coach. “I have been at this event with most of our junior champions over the past 10 years and the competition this year has been tougher than any I’ve seen. Courtney has really matured as a racer. She is focused and has the technical and tactical skills to win against any girl in the Region on any given day.”
As a testament to the quality of coaching and the dedication of its member athletes, the independent Hidden Valley Ski Team (HVST) has had 13 straight years of athletes qualifying for the USSA Rocky/Central Junior Championships. Palm, who started racing with HVST at age 12, is an avid skier who has racked up impressive wins over the past four years.
In acknowledging her coaches, Palm said, “The feedback and encouragement given by my coaches really helped to develop me as a good skier. Without my coaches, especially Coach Craig, I wouldn’t have been able to progress as I have throughout my ski racing years. It takes a lot of work and dedication from them and I am so grateful for their willingness and commitment to help me grow as a racer.”
Spidle, along with Palm and her family, traveled to Marquette from Wildwood just ahead of a fierce winter snowstorm that hit the Midwest. “We made it to Marquette despite 12 inches of new snow and 40 mile-per-hour winds,” said Spidle. “The Hidden Valley Ski Team is consistently the team that travels the longest distance to compete in these regional championships.”
Spidle, a former racer himself, has been a nationally certified alpine race coach with the Hidden Valley Ski Team since 2005 and travels with several of the elite athletes to races throughout the Midwest and Colorado. He also serves as a USSA Technical Delegate and Referee and has annual alpine racing camps in both the United States and Switzerland during the off season months.
“Ski racing is a tough sport,” said Spidle. “It’s just the athlete against the mountain. The most difficult thing young ski racers must overcome is having the confidence to push themselves, take risks, and ski on the edge. Courtney has worked incredibly hard over the past several years to get to this point, and we are so proud of her consistent track record of being invited to the national junior championships.”
He added, “In the downhill, especially, which we don’t train for locally, Courtney was fantastic. Against a field of tough competitors, she posted a time of 42.31 seconds in her first race, and then 41.72 seconds with her second run, six-tenths of a second faster, enabling her to finish 11th overall in downhill. I have to admit, she was going so fast on the last run, it was thrilling and worrisome at the same time!”
What’s next on Palm’s agenda after skiing has finished?
She will be back running track this spring at Lafayette. Palm runs the 400 dash, is on the 400 relay team and competes in the high jump and long jump. She also plans to go out for the volleyball this fall. But she’s already looking forward to next winter when she can get back on her skis.
“My goal is to race in college,” she said. “In addition to being a ski racer, I look forward to becoming a coach myself and helping younger kids to enjoy the sport as much as I do!”
The Hidden Valley Ski Team, established in 1991, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and advancing the sport of alpine racing. The team trains at Hidden Valley Ski Resort in Wildwood, MO, and currently has more than 80 team members, ranging in age from 5 to 19. HVST also has more than a dozen certified coaches, many with racing experience. Coaches are certified and licensed through the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA). For more information about the team and its levels of involvement, visit www.hvst.org.