Ethan Hess' 2018-19 campaign started slowly, but it ultimately wrapped with a gauntlet of action.
Earlier this month, the 19-year-old sit skier wrapped a stretch that included the World Para-Nordic Skiing Championships in Prince George and the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.
"I'm not used to doing so many races in such a short time," he said, noting he completed seven races in about a two-week span. "It was pretty rough. I was beaten up after."
The Worlds didn't go as well as hoped, with Hess taking a top individual result of 15th in the middle-distance race.
"It went alright. I had some OK races at worlds. It wasn't a disaster but it wasn't exactly what I was looking for," he said.
The highlight for Hess, however, was that he got a chance to compete in a relay with teammates Kyle Barber and para-Nordic legend Brian McKeever, but he only found out about the opportunity the evening before.
"He's one of the most accomplished Paralympians ever, so that was a really, really cool experience," Hess said.
Hess' Canada Games experience brought him plenty of gold, however, as he won all three of his races, two of which were a British Columbia podium sweep. Though he was anticipating that level of personal success, Hess said he was happiest to see his teammates excel alongside him.
Whistler pucksters earn bronze
For the first time in the Sea to Sky, all three hockey teams with Whistler players qualified for Tier 3 provincials.
Building on that success, all three of them made it to the third-place game, with two of those bringing home hardware.
To start, the peewee Winterhawks wrapped the Tier 3 provincials in Powell River with a 4-1-1 record, winning bronze by defeating Quesnel 6-0 in the third-place game. Whistler reeled off three consecutive wins to start the tournament, beating Dawson Creek 8-2, Castlegar 7-2 and Tri Port 7-4 before playing Quesnel to a 2-2 draw. The Winterhawks suffered a 1-0 heartbreaker to Powell River in the semifinal to end up in the bronze game.
Meanwhile, the Squamish midget squad, stocked with plenty of Whistler players, had the best record of any team at Tier provincials in Cranbrook with a 5-1 mark, but the loss unfortunately came in the semifinal. The team breezed through group play with wins of 7-3 over Salmon Arm, 7-1 over Castlegar, 3-2 over Powell River and 7-1 over Cranbrook. Squamish was nicked 3-2 by the eventual champions from Terrace in the semifinal, but the squad rebounded by eking out a 2-1 win over Powell River for bronze.
Lastly, the bantam Winterhawks posted a 3-3 mark en route to a fourth-place finish in Port Hardy. The Winterhawks had a strong 3-1 record in group play, opening with wins of 3-2 over Cranbrook and 10-1 over Kelowna before falling 5-1 to the hosts from Tri Port. Whistler wrapped group play with a 6-2 victory over Dawson Creek. The playoffs, however, saw the Winterhawks' potent attack unable to keep up with its opponents, dropping an 11-5 semifinal decision to eventual champions Mission before falling 9-8 to Terrace with the winner coming in the game's final two minutes.
Full results are online at www.bchockey.net.
Iles earns second-place finish at Crankworx
Whistler's Finn Iles got his downhill season off to an outstanding start at Crankworx Rotorua on Friday, March 22.
Iles earned a second-place finish in the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill's pro elite division, finishing just 0.09 seconds back of winner Brook MacDonald of New Zealand. Another Kiwi, George Brannigan, placed third.
"I'm pretty happy. First race of the year is always a bit nerve-wracking, but last year I got third here and this year I got second, in completely different conditions. It was a close race. I made one kind of stupid mistake, but other than that it was a really good run and I'm happy to come out in second," Iles said in a release.
On the women's side, Australian Tracey Hannah cruised to a win by nearly five seconds over New Zealand's Kate Weatherly while defending champion Tahnee Seagrave of Great Britain was third. Whistler's Georgia Astle was near the middle of the pack in ninth.
The other downhill race, the Rotorua Air DH on March 20, saw American Mitch Ropelato take the men's win over Australia's Mick Hannah and Canadian Bas Van Steenbergen while Whistler's Jesse Melamed placed 16th. Canadian Vaea Verbeeck bested Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands and New Zealand's Shania Rawson for the women's crown.
Elsewhere at Crankworx, Canadian Brett Rheeder got his slopestyle season off to an excellent start with a win in the Maxxis Slopestyle in Memory of McGazza on March 23, scoring a 93.75 to top France's Tomas Lemoine (87) and Sweden's Alex Alanko (80.75).
Meanwhile, Lemoine topped the RockShox Rotorua Pump Track Challenge on March 22, beating New Zealand's Keegan Wright in the final while France's Adrien Loron took third by defeating New Zealand's Billy Meaclem in the small final. As for the women, American Kialani Hines earned the victory over New Zealand's Shania Rawson while Seagrave downed Canadian Vaea Verbeeck in the small final for third.
New Zealand rookie Meaclem, however, had earned a victory in the Mons Royale Speed and Style on March 21, downing Sweden's Martin Soderstrom in the final while American Greg Watts earned bronze over Lemoine in the small final. Earlier in the day, at the Official Oceania Whip-Off Championships, Austrian Peter Kaiser earned the win, sharing the podium with American Ryan Howard and Meaclem, while New Zealand's Vinny Armstrong topped Canadian Casey Brown and Australian Ronja Hill-Wright for the women's win.
Lastly, in the 100% Dual Slalom Rotorua, Keegan Wright bested Van Steenbergen in the men's final, while Kyle Strait topped Barry Nobles in an all-American small final. For the women, Verbeeck earned the victory over Beerten while Seagrave defeated Weatherly in the small final.
In the early King and Queen of Crankworx standings, Lemoine holds a small lead over Wright and Meaclem on the men's side while among women, Verbeeck has the jump on Beerten and Rawson.
Full results are available online at www.crankworx.com.
Melamed fourth in EWS season opener
Whistler's Jesse Melamed got off to an excellent start to the Enduro World Series at the Giant Toa Enduro in New Zealand on March 24.
Melamed was just 10.14 seconds off the podium and 51.65 seconds back of winner Martin Maes of Belgium. New Zealand's Keegan Wright was second and France's Florian Nicolai was third. Whistler's Yoann Barelli, meanwhile, took 28th.
On the women's side, Andreane Lanthier Nadeau kicked off her campaign in sixth, 46.14 seconds back of winner Isabeau Coudurier of France. In second and third were France's Morgane Charre and Great Britain's Rebecca Baraona, respectively.
Full results are online at www.enduroworldseries.com.
Peiffer wraps season in sixth
Whistler Freeride Club alumnus Tom Peiffer completed a successful 2019 rookie season by finishing in sixth place in the overall standings.
In the final event of the season in Verbier, Switzerland, Peiffer posted an eighth-place finish to secure his spot for the 2020 campaign, finishing in the top 10 in four of five events.
Twin brother Liam was not so lucky, as he was not invited to Verbier, ultimately finishing the season in 16th.