The USA Snowboard Association's National Championships and the slopes of Mammoth Mountain, Calif., provided the stage and setÿting for White Salmon teenager Vic Wild's rising-star performance.
Wild, 14, combined a third-place finish in the slalom with a fifth-place effort in the giant slalom to place second overall in the USASA Youth Men (14-15) division's alpine combined competition in March.
All told, he ended up with 8505.03 points and second overall in his division's rankings of USASA's governing body, the International Snowboard Federation (ISF).
The results, impressive as they are, only represent a step toward Wild's next goal of racing for the U.S. junior team in the 2001 ISF junior world championships. His eventual goal, of course, is to race for the U.S. national team in a future Winter Olympiad.
"he results aren't that important because they're only results for one race. They don't tell how you've raced all year," noted Wild, who competed 13 times this season -- his second for the Wenatchee-based Mission Ridge Snowboard Team -- as a member of the Pac-West Tour.
Now that the five-month season is over, however, Wild has turned his attention to other interests, like baseball. He still snowboards on weekends, but just for fun.
This summer, he will resume his training schedule at Timberline Ski Area on Mount Hood. Among his training partners will be members of the U.S. national team.
Before the summer ends, Wild will have to decide where he will train and for what team he will compete next winter in pursuit of winning his first national championship.
Wild said racing for Mission Ridge and its coach, Scott Erickson, has been a great experience. But, for a variety of reasons, he's not sure he'll return to the team for a third season.
For one, he's been approached by the coach of the Steamboat Springs, Colo., team about coming to the Rockies to train and compete.
"Our team probably has the best coach, but a lot of the guys from this year's team aren't coming back next season. So there won't be anybody there to compete with and push me to get better," Wild said.
So a move, which could boost his promising racing career, seems to be in the works for Wild, who's spent the last two winters away from home, family and friends.
"Vic's got a big decision to make over the summer," said his mother, Carol. If he chooses to go to Colorado, she noted, "The biggest difference for me will be I won't be able to pop up on weekends and see him. But he'd have the best in the nation to compete with."
She added the decision will depend a lot on what Steamboat Springs and Wild's sponsors (Nike, Smith, Giro, Raichle, Da Kine, Swix, Chapstick) can offer in financial assistance.
"There are grants and scholarships available for kids who can't afford to go there on their own, so that's something we'll definitely be looking at."
Wild started riding snowboards when he was 7 years old. Four years later he began racing competitively for the Mount Hood Meadows Ski and Snowboard team.
A desire to take his carving to a new level led him to Mission Ridge two years after winning a junior regional snowboard championship, also at Mammoth Mountain.
In his first year of racing for Mission Ridge, Wild finished third in a junior regional giant slalom event at Mammoth and qualified for his second national competition.
At this year's junior nationals, Wild showed why he's become one of the hottest junior racers in the country.
In the giant slalom, held March 20, the White Salmon racer cranked out runs of 37.94 and 36.93 seconds in the dual (side-by-side) racing format used by the USASA.
Wild had the third-fastest second run to move from eighth place (out of a field of 55 racers) after one run to third in the final standings and onto the podium, right next to race runnerup and U.S junior national team member Jayson Hale of Sierraville, Calif.
Winner Sean Smarse of Lincoln, N.H., had the fastest second run on top of the third-best first run. His combined time was 1:13.06, 1.81 seconds a head of Wild.
His slalom result on March 22 wasn't as good as his GS', but it still helped him capture fifth place in the event. Still, Wild said he was disappointed in his finish. After posting the fastest first run (34.91 seconds), his time slipped in the second to sixth best among the 50 racers who took the course.
"I should've won the slalom," Wild noted, "but I messed up on my second run. I felt pressure because I was going against the guy from Yugoslavia. I tried to beat him real bad but I psyched myself out and made a little mistake that cost me the race."
That guy from Yugoslavia, Veliko Ciric of Cacak, turned in a combined time of 1:10.07 and finished the competition tied with New Hampshire's Smarse for first in total points (9286.88) and the overall alpine rankings.
But one mistake, one run, one race, don't determine how good a racer is or how good he'll become. What will is how the racer learns from his mistakes and how he approaches the next competition.
"I thought I could've, should've done better than I did," Wild said. "But I still ended up second overall (in ISF alpine rankings), which shows I've got a good chance of winning nationals next year."