Richland's Szabo wins skiing title at Junior Nationals
Emily Szabo of Richland hopes to make the U.S. Ski Team someday.
The 13-year-old took a step toward that in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Freestyle/Freeskiing Junior National championship meet March 13-19 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Szabo came in first in female moguls, and is up for a spot representing the U.S. in junior worlds next year.
“We celebrated (and were) super happy,” she said, referring to those close to her.
Competitors made runs on a steep, moguled course and were evaluated on turns, aerial maneuvers and speed.
Szabo, who was in the 15 age group, had 85.38 points to the runner-up's 83.51 in the 19 age group.
Szabo, an eighth grader at Sewickley Academy, was invited to compete based on points she earned in a series of qualifiers in the Eastern United States.
Johnny Kroetz, Szabo's coach with the Bristol Mountain freestyle team near Rochester, N.Y., was surprised by her victory, considering she trains only on weekends.
“I knew she had the potential to do very well, but given that she had just turned 13 and there were so many incredibly talented — and much older and stronger — athletes in the field, it could not be a reasonable expectation to for her to win the overall title,” Kroetz said. “About half of the field at this contest was filled with girls who ski at academies where they go to school for half a day and ski the other half.”
Kroetz said Szabo reminds him of Morgan Schild, a former charge who competed recently for the U.S. in the 2017 freestyle worlds.
Szabo said she is good doing jumps, but needs to work on her speed. She was invited to a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Young Guns development camp last year.
Szabo said she thought freestyle was “cool” when she took it up seven years ago. Moguls have been part of the Olympics since 1992.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.