Some of Whistler Mountain Ski Club's (WMSC) top competitors are brimming with confidence heading into this weekend's Whistler Cup.
U16 racer Myles Kowalczyk, who is second in B.C. Alpine's provincial ranking system for boys, hit the podium five times this year on the provincial circuit and ended up just 51 points back of Grouse Mountain Tyee's Christian Callaghan, the lone B.C. skier named to Team Canada.
"I feel really good about it. I feel it's probably going to be my best chance yet of doing really well in the races," Kowalczyk said.
In one of Kowalczyk's podium appearances, he was standing on top of it after nabbing a super-G victory at Apex in February. The win was made even sweeter as it was a bounce-back performance from a disappointing seventh the day before.
"That was my first provincial win, so that was my highlight, I would say," he said. "The day before that, I didn't ski very well and so I really had something to prove. I just really wanted to ski fast so I really went for it and it worked out."
Fellow WMSC teammate Ella Renzoni will enter Whistler Cup with a provincial title already under her belt.
Renzoni dominated this season to the tune of seven wins and running away with the provincial crown by 425 points over runner-up Katrina Voss of Hemlock.
Her skill was most acutely apparent earlier this month at Grouse Mountain where she topped the podium in all three slalom races.
"Winning all three races in a row gave me a lot of confidence heading into this," she said. "I was just giving my all and being completely focused."
In advance of Whistler Cup, Renzoni is getting acclimatized to the hill alongside some famous faces. She's rubbed shoulders with champions like Candace Crawford and Marie-Michele Gagnon while serving as a forerunner for the Sport Chek Canadian Championships.
"It was so awesome to see what the national team people are doing. It's awesome meeting people I've been looking up to and watching on TV," she said. "They're pretty focused on their runs, but I'm seeing them in inspection, talking to them before their runs."
Kowalczyk also had the chance to hit the nationals course, forerunning the giant slalom race and super-G training.
He felt taking on the course's challenges will help steel his nerves for what he'll face this weekend.
"It was good to ski on the hill because it's kind of like a race environment, having a race without the pressure," he said. "It's good experience.
"It's thrilling to have the best skiers in Canada and you're skiing on the same course as them. You see how they ski... You see what they're doing and you try to apply that to your skiing."
As one of the U16 veterans at Whistler Cup, which begins on Friday, April 1 and goes through April 3, Kowalczyk will look to make a jump up into the top five after taking a best result of 24th in the slalom in his first crack at U16 in 2015.
"I definitely learned what works and what doesn't at Whistler Cup. It's not really like any other race I usually go to throughout the season," he said. "It can be distracting. The first couple years I was in it, I put a bit of pressure on myself, but I find it's better just to treat it like any other race. The more pressure you put on yourself, the worse you're going to ski."
Renzoni, meanwhile, was in the top 30 in all three races last year, enjoying a best result of 20th in the super-G. This year, she has a few goals in mind, namely making the top 10 in giant slalom and slalom.
"And also just make a lot of new friends," she said.
Several other WMSC athletes are set to suit up. Nathan Romanin and Jack Forsyth with join Kowalczyk on B.C. Team 1 and Dawson Yates, Konstantin Petkovic and Jake Bennett qualified through the B.C. Quota. As for the girls, Meg Swaffield will be on B.C. Team 1, and Erin Dawson and Sierra King will represent B.C. Team 2. Gigi Kranjc, Julia Ross, Aura Mullings, Adelaide Tiller and Gemma Bexton were named through the B.C. Quota. Maja Woolley qualified but will not compete due to injury.
In the U14 categories, Skylar Beauregard was named to the B.C. Team for the boys.
In all, the Whistler Cup will feature roughly 430 athletes from 22 countries.
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