Quincy’s Yamamoto helps WSU earn national ski cross championship
The Washington State University Ski Team won first place in the Skier Cross event at the U.S. Collegiate Ski Association National Championships in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, two weeks ago.
Quincy native Cai Yamamoto competed for WSU in Skier Cross and helped his team earn the national title.
“Cai finished 8th in the qualifying heat, which meant he would be in the small or semifinal. And he did what he needed to, winning the heat and setting up his team in perfect position to win the overall,” a press release stated. “In the Final heat, Cai’s team mate Spencer Barclay took a photo-finish second place which boosted their point total to first in the standings.”
This is the first national championship that any club sport has won at WSU since 1977, the press release stated.
In an interview with the Post-Register, Yamamoto described the Skier Cross event as a freestyle event, with jumps and corners. The press release described it as “motocross on snow.” Yamamoto finished fifth overall among individual skiers.
The team also competed in the slalom, the giant slalom and the dual slalom. Yamamoto finished ninth in the giant slalom, and earned his second All-American nod.
The team did all this while not having a full-time coach. Ski is a club sport at WSU, which means the athletes manage the team. The university helps some, but the athletes are on the hook for most of the expenses, paying dues and holding fundraisers. The team members drove their own cars to Wyoming, and held no practices during the season.
“We kind of have a coach, a grad student, and he helps when he can,” Yamamoto said. “We also work closely with the University of Idaho’s Ski Team.”
The UI campus is about 10 miles east of the WSU campus.
“They kind of have a coach, but he wasn’t able to make it to a lot of the races this year,” Yamamoto said.
A senior at WSU majoring in civil engineering, Yamamoto has been skiing for the Cougars for the past two years. A transfer student from Lewis-Clark State, he credits a strong team chemistry for the success in Wyoming.
“We just try to focus on everyone having fun,” he said. “A lot of the people on the team have never ski raced before. We just focus on fun and teach people to ski better.”
The team made it to nationals last year, finishing fourth in skier cross, Yamamoto said.
This year, the team went into nationals as champions of the Northwest Conference. They struggled at regionals, Yamamoto said, but still managed to qualify for nationals.
Next year, two or three of the members of this year’s team will return.
“They should have a fairly competitive team,” Yamamoto predicted. If the team makes it back, it will have a good shot at repeating, he added.
The easygoing nature of the group plus its national success have increased interest in the sport at WSU.
“We have created a pretty cool environment,” he said. In addition, the success might motivate the university to loosen the purse strings a little more, and other businesses to chip in, he said.
By Sebastian Moraga, firstname.lastname@example.org