U.S. Snowboarders Take to Mammoth Superpipe with Heavy Hearts during Grand Prix Qualifier

Though hearts were heavy, the nation’s top snowboarders showed no signs of slowing down Tuesday during the first of two Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers taking place in Mammoth Mountain this week. Riders from around the world are still reeling from last week’s tragic story surrounding U.S. Olympic hopeful Kevin Pearce. The 22 year old from Norwich, Vt., suffered a life threatening injury last Thursday while training in Park City. As of Wednesday morning, Pearce remains in critical but stable condition in a Utah hospital.

Aside from being a solid contender for the podium in Vancouver, Pearce is a key player in the influential “Frends Crew” that’s been making a very positive impact on the sport. There is no “I” in their version of friends because Pearce and his buddies Danny Davis, Kier Dillon, Mason Aguirre, Scotty Lago and brother’s Luke and Jack Mitrani choose to shun individual acclaim in favor of group fun. The eclectic group of talented riders has proven time and time again that working with each other, rather than competing against each other, is highly effective.

Indeed, several members of the Frends Crew are still in the hunt to make the elite U.S. Olympic halfpipe team. During today’s early rounds Davis, Jack Mitrani and Scotty Lago all qualified for Wednesday’s Final. Even with their hearts back in Utah, they showed no signs of hesitation as they rode in Kevin’s honor. Making the final cut won’t be easy though with boarders like Louie Vito, J.J. Thomas, Danny Kass and the unstoppable Shaun White all vying for the same spots. Only four will qualify.

Luke Mitrani and Mason Aguirre failed to make the top 16 cut Tuesday, but true to Frends Crew form, they’ll be stomping hard for boys today.

Shaun White took the top spot in today’s qualifiers on the strength of his second run, which included back-to-back double corks. Meanwhile, the surprise package of the day was 18 year old Greg Bretz, a young-gun from Mammoth whose 45.90 total score makes him a force to be reckoned with.

On the ladies side Kelly Clark reached her familiar first place position. And after suffering a minor injury earlier this year, Hannah Teter looked inspired in her return to competition. She snagged second place over Gretchen Bleiler, who rounded out the top three.

1. Shaun White, Carlsbad, CA, 47.10
2. Greg Bretz, Mammoth Lakes, CA, 45.90
3. Jeff Batchelor, Canada, 43.80
4. Louie Vito, Sandy, UT, 43.40
5. Danny Davis, Detroit, MI, 43.30
6. Elijah Teter, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 43.00
7. Broc Waring, Edwards, CO, 42.20
8. Justin Lameroux, Canada, 41.30
9. JJ Thomas, Golden, CO, 41.20
10. Jack Mitrani, Mammoth, CA, 40.70
11. Steve Fisher, Breckenridge, CO, 39.70
12. Matt Ladley, Steamboat Springs, CO, 39.70
13. Scotty Lago, Seabrook, NH, 39.60
14. Brennen Swanson, Stillwater, MN, 39.00
15. Andy Finch, Truckee, CA, 39.00
16. Mathieu Crepel, France, 38.90

1. Kelly Clark, Mt. Snow, VT, 46.50
2. Hannah Teter, Belmont, VT, 43.90
3. Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, CO, 43.10
4. Ellery Hollingsworth, Stratton, VT, 42.40
5. Maddy Schaffrick, Steamboat Springs, CO, 41.90
6. Elena Hight, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 40.50
7. Clair Bidez, Minturn, CO, 39.90
8. Holly Crawford, Australia, 39.00