Freestyle

Podiums and Season Title for U.S. Aerials

by
USSA
2016-02-20 08:55
 

MINSK, Belarus (Feb. 20, 2016) – The U.S. Freestyle aerials Ski Team claimed the top spots in Saturday’s World Cup finals, with rookie Chris Lillis (Pittsford, NY) taking the win for the men and Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, VA) landing her second victory of the season and clinching the 2016 women’s overall title.

Before coming in to the event in Minsk, Caldwell was held a narrow 64-point lead in the women’s overall standings ahead of Australia’s Danielle Scott. With Scott being very capable of landing high-scoring jumps, Caldwell had to execute. She did just that, landing her highest scoring full, full, full ever to take the win.

“I went up and did a full, full, full after not training one the entire time we were here, so it was kind of a big deal,” said Caldwell. “The coaches told me I was going to be good, and I was.”

As one of the only women who competes triples on the World Cup, Caldwell is fully aware that the risks she takes throwing triples may not always reap rewards. But her dedication and consistency this season paid off.

“I’ve historically done really well on this site,” stated Caldwell. “My first time here I got second place, last year I was first, and I won again this year. So, Belarus has been really nice to me. Winning the overall title is a huge career accomplishment that I’ve wanted since I started this sport. To finally have it come to fruition is incredible.”

Lillis, who earned his World Cup starts at U.S. Selections back in December, landed his first career podium and win in only his fourth World Cup event.


Chris Lillis (center) takes his first World Cup win. Maxim Gustik (left) of Belarus was second and Ilya Burov of Russia third. (USSA/Greg Heuer)

“My big thing I was thinking about all week was doing some nice jumps in contest with high scores,” said Lillis. “My first qualification jump was the best jump I’ve ever done with my highest score. I was setting new goals for myself throughout the day. I was already super stoked before I made super finals. My coaches put me where I need to be all day and I had no further expectations from what I’d already done. I wanted to do another straight, nice jump with a nice landing and let the results fall where they may. And I ended up winning.”

In addition to the two podiums and a crystal globe, the U.S. team also won another Rookie of the Year, with Morgan Northrop (Haymarket, VA) bringing home the title. After missing last season due to injury, Northrop burst on to the World Cup scene with a sixth place finish at Deer Valley Resort.

“This season has been I’ve had to date in my aerials career,” said Northrop. “Especially after being out due to injury last year, coming back and getting my best result at Deer Valley, upping my degree of difficulty, being able to come to here and get the jumps off and gain the experience and win rookie of the year is awesome.”

To top it all off, the U.S. team brought home the Nation’s Cup for the second consecutive season. Winning it this year came as a bit of a surprise, but it truly was a team effort.


The U.S. aerials team celebrates winning the Nation's Cup. (USSA/Greg Heuer)

“We knew mathematically there was still a chance for us to win the Nation’s Cup, but we didn’t even look at it because we weren’t expecting it at all,” said head coach Todd Ossian. “One of the coolest things about this one is that every single member of the team contributed to this, so that makes it really special. It’s given everyone motivation. If their teammates are capable of it, they are capable too.”

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Elite Aerial Development Program continues to feed a successful national team, with both Caldwell and Lillis coming up through the program. This past summer, athletes were able to train and prepare for World Cup competition on the brand new water ramp facility at the Utah Olympic Park.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ashley Caldwell closed out the 2016 season with a win and the women’s aerials World Cup title with 409 points.
  • Caldwell is the third U.S. woman to win the globe. Teammate Kiley McKinnon won in 2015 and Nikki Stone won in 1995 and 1998.
  • In only his fourth World Cup start, Chris Lillis earned his first podium and win.
  • Lillis is the youngest men's aerials World Cup winner ever.
  • In the final event of the season, Kiley McKinnon finished fifth, Madison Olsen ninth, Elle Gaudette 11th and Morgan Northrop 13th.
  • Eric Loughran was sixth, Jon Lillis seventh, Harrison Smith ninth, Nik Seeman 17th, and Mac Bohonnon 22nd.
  • Morgan Northrop took home the 2016 FIS World Cup Rookie of the Year.
  • The U.S. team took home the Nation’s Cup for the second consecutive season, which is awarded to the team with the most World Cup points across all of its athletes.

 

QUOTES

Ashley Caldwell
I didn’t sleep last night. I calculated it out and I knew that if Dani won, I needed at least seventh place or better to take the title. So when I made the final six, I knew I actually had it locked in and that really changed my zone mentally. I went up and did a full, full, full after not training one the entire time we were here, so it was kind of a big deal. The coaches told me I was going to be good, and I was.

Winning the overall title is a huge career accomplishment that I’ve wanted since I started this sport. To finally have it come to fruition is incredible. I’ve historically done really well on this site. My first time here I got second place, last year I was first, and I won again this year. So, Belarus has been really nice to me. It hasn’t always been the easiest event to get through just because it’s a pretty warm climate. It’s also the last event of the year so mentally it’s kind of a struggle. But I’ve always pulled out pretty nice jumps at this event.

The veterans had a bit of a tough go at it this year, but we’re still putting up results. We saw Mac come out and win after having a tough season. And I had injuries all summer. It speaks to our team dynamic and the hard work we’ve put in over the years, not just in each season. Our rookie team is incredible. Just to see all the talent that’s coming up and have some of that talent on the World Cup this season was really cool. We’re putting in great work to our development program and making it a priority to get the the younger kids on tour with us, and it’s obviously paid off.

The overall title is wonderful, and I’m ecstatic to have it. But I didn’t get as much training in this summer as I wanted to, and I have bigger goals I want to accomplish. Hopefully I can up my degree of difficulty and increase what I’m doing out there.

Chris Lillis
The season has been going great and all of my World Cup starts had been going well, so I was just happy that I did what I needed to do. My big thing I was thinking about all week was doing some nice jumps in contest with high scores. My first qualification jump was the best jump I’ve ever done with my highest score. I had made it to finals before, so I just wanted to put down a straight jump. I was setting new goals for myself throughout the day. When I made super finals, it was all gravy from there. I was already super stoked. My coaches put me where I need to be all day and I had no further expectations from what I’d already done. I wanted to do another straight, nice jump with a nice landing and let the results fall where they may. And I ended up winning.

Being on the World Cup this season has been about accomplishing goals and setting new ones. I just wanted to come out and train with the best athletes in the world in my sport. It made me push myself. And it worked out today. Just to compete was an honor, and to do well was even better.

Morgan Northrop
This season has been I’ve had to date in my aerials career. Especially after being out due to injury last year, coming back and getting my best result at Deer Valley, upping my degree of difficulty, being able to come to here and get the jumps off and gain the experience and win rookie of the year is awesome. I’d really like to move up in degree of difficulty this summer, get more training in, be more consistent in contests and just have fun.

Todd Ossian, Head Aerials Coach
When Ashley won in China, that was her first yellow bib. She got the bib at the first event and she kept it all year long. She finished the season with a win, and that’s really impressive and shows how consistent she is. We’ve had limited training the past couple weeks, but she really couldn’t have performed better and she absolutely nailed it today.

We knew mathematically there was still a chance for us to win the Nation’s Cup, but we didn’t even look at it because we weren’t expecting it at all. One of the coolest things about this one is that every single member of the team contributed to this, so that makes it really special. It’s given everyone motivation. If their teammates are capable of it, they are capable too. We’re going to see this even more next year.

Matt Saunders, Aerials Coach
Chris’ future is very bright. Both him and Jon are jumping great. To have both the Lillis brothers get a second place and a win within two weeks is cool for them and their family. Joe Davies has been Chris’ main coach and this was a big deal for him. Joe did a terrific job with the young guys this season and it was a really special win for him. The U.S. aerials program really has a lot of depth, and our results show that. When Ossian came in, there were five people on the team, and now we have 10 people that could win a World Cup every week.

We are so psyched for Morgan on winning Rookie of the Year. She was a big part of getting the Nation’s Cup as well with her sixth place finish at Deer Valley. It’s been a long, tough road for her with injuries and we couldn’t be more proud of her.

RESULTS
Men’s Results
Women’s Results
Men’s Overall World Cup Standings
Women’s Overall World Cup Standings
Nation’s Cup Standings