Two local snowboarders are in rare company after competing at the highest level in the United States.
Both competed in the 12- and 13-year-old Breaker division in the 23rd annual National Championships held by the United States of America Snowboard Assn. at Copper Mountain, Colo.
Chandler Hunt of Newport Beach had the distinction of being the only one in his age group to finish in the top 10 in all three events. He finished eighth in halfpipe (80.7 points), fifth in slopestyle (86.0 points) and fourth in rail jam. The halfpipe event happened on April 2, slopestyle was on April 3. Boardercross and rail jam were both on April 4.
Sammy Swanson of Costa Mesa was also strong, finishing 11th out of 69 competitors in halfpipe (77.3 points) and 21st in slopestyle (72.7 points). Swanson was the fastest in his age division after a few time trials in boardercross, in which boys race each other side-by-side. However, in the quarterfinals Swanson was taken out accidentally by another snowboarder, who made an aggressive move and ran into him, knocking Swanson down. He finished 25th (65.94 points).
Stephanie Hunt, Chandler's mother, spoke with The Daily Pilot while traveling through Utah from Colorado. She expressed her happiness.
"We're almost speechless," Stephanie Hunt said. "We're so proud of him. We're humbled of how brave he is. There was loud music at the events, the conditions were icy and the temperatures were in the 20s. Some kids suffered broken limbs and concussions. It was so windy where a gust of wind could affect their performance. There are so many things that are out of their control."
Chandler Hunt loved how his results all turned out.
"It was neat to be good all around," Chandler Hunt said. "I was trying to be a good overall snowboarder and not just good at one thing, so I was pretty stoked."
Stoked indeed — for Hunt, he felt his best event was in halfpipe, because of the fact that the area where he rides does not have a large halfpipe. Hunt has ridden at Mountain High in the San Gabriel Valley mountains.
"I did the best in halfpipe," Hunt said. "Because there were the most competitors in that event. When I was younger, we didn't have to ride that many halfpipes at Mountain High. I landed both jumps. In the rail jump, there were five features. With 30 minutes to go, if you fall, you get zero points. I landed as many tricks as I could."
Swanson was a little disappointed with his results, but happy when put into perspective.
"I came into Nationals not knowing how to ride halfpipe," Swanson said. "When I left, I had a better understanding of how to ride it. Considering where I started, I'd rank myself around 50th. So for me to go from 50th to 11th is pretty good."
Swanson also tried to battle some factors along the way.
"My ultimate goal was to make it to the podium (and make it among the top three finishers). There were a couple of factors that were out of my control that prevented me from doing that. One factor was the speed at the event was pretty terrible. Another reason was a kid crashed into me at boardercross."
Chris Hargrave, Swanson's coach in Lake Tahoe, praised Swanson's efforts.
"He did amazingly well for not having a 22-foot halfpipe," Hargrave said. "He progressed tremendously. He did a backside 540-degree, or 1 ½ turns, and a frontside 720, or two full spins. Those are very difficult moves. He developed very rapidly. If he had stomped his 540, he easily would have been somewhere in the top 10.
"Sammy was the fastest one out of the gate in boardercross. If he finished that way, he would have been in the top five and in the finals. He was competing against guys who ride four to six times per week. He only rides twice per week, a weekend warrior."
Katrina Foley, Sammy Swanson's mother who is a former Costa Mesa City Councilwoman and is a current Newport Mesa Unified School District Board Member, spoke frankly about Swanson's week.
"He's disappointed," Foley said. "He went deep on the first jump, so he couldn't quite land his second jump. He progressed a lot during the course of the week. You come there knowing how to do certain tricks and you leave knowing how to do more. I'm very proud of him."
As for Hunt, his father, Brandon Hunt, was pleased with the performance.