FRISCO, Colo. — Olivia Kesterson had a remarkable finish in a national snowboard competition she almost missed out on.
The 18-year-old finished second in the United States of America Snowboard Associates National Championship 18-22 Women’s Jams with a score of 58.
Kesterson, who competed in a field of nine at Copper Mountain in slopestyle March 30-April 4, faced a last-minute decision when she got the invite via email two days before deadline.
Between the entry fee, USASA membership and the flight, the trip cost her more than $700, but when it comes to snowboarding, “I can never really turn anything down,” she said.
Her sponsors — Burton, Stevens Pass and Revolutions Snow and Ski Shop — covered the cost of equipment and Kesterson got a chance to test her skills against some of the top talent in her field. She surpassed her own expectations.
“I thought 22-year-olds were going to show me how it’s done,” she said. “But it turned out differently than I thought.”
It was the Wenatchee native’s second appearance at the USASA National Championships and one of many competitions she’s entered during her snowboarding career, but it could be her last one for a while.
Kesterson graduates high school this spring and is focusing on her future, which won’t emphasize competitive snowboarding.
She is exploring a career in the Naval Academy and has applied to several colleges, including Western Washington University and the University of Washington.
Although she’s developed a strong skill set on the slopes, snowboarding isn’t a vocation, but a way to leave worries and everyday stresses behind.
“I never want to be super serious about snowboarding, because that’s why I like it,” she said. “It’s the most fun sport you can do on your own, or with your friends.”
Kesterson started entering competitions in 2011 to explore new venues and to test her abilities.
After a fifth-place slopestyle finish at the USASA Nationals in 2012, she decided to reign in her traveling and focus more on school, work and making the most of her senior year.
But like all the competitions before, Kesterson used the 2013 USASA Nationals as an opportunity to have fun.
Kesterson spent the week in Colorado soaking in the atmosphere and prepping for her heats.
She scored the 58 on her first run, which included a collection of tricks she was confident in and landed cleanly.
She performed a front-side boardside on a down rail, a front side 180 on the second rail, a front-side 360 on her first jump, a tuck knee grab on her second jump and a method grab on the final jump.
After building a solid foundation with her first run, Kesterson was more daring with the second heat and included a series of more challenging tricks and recorded a 51.7.
“I landed everything and it worked out nice,” she said of her first run.
Kesterson’s trip to Copper Mountain will probably be her last for some time, but that doesn’t mean she won’t do everything in her power to get in as many runs as time and money will allow next winter.
“I still want to do it, I just don’t really know because I don’t know where I’m going right now,” she said. “Competitions weren’t always my top priority, I mostly did them just to push myself and see how far I could go.”
Jon Frank: @JFrankWW