Keely Cashman has been riding high for the last two seasons. In her mind, her standout achievement at this stage is consistency.

The 21-year-old Squaw Valley racer joins an elite group of athletes that includes Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso as Ski Racing Media’s Junior of the Year, which was first awarded in 1975. (The 2020 men’s winner will be announced later this week.)

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Last season, Cashman doubled down on her success from 2019 (when she earned the national giant slalom title) in becoming the 2020 NorAm downhill and overall champion. She also notched her first major piece of hardware – a bronze medal in the Junior World Championship alpine combined event in Narvik, Norway – just before the season came to an abrupt close due to COVID-19.

“I would have to say that was the highlight,” Cashman says of her World Juniors bronze performance. “I really wanted to medal in something, so that was exciting. I was nervous between runs in the combined. I have a tendency to get in my head a lot. I either ski nervous or just send it. If I ski nervous, I know it’s not going to be fast. I just had to send it.”

The Californian has modified her race day self-talk in accordance with the reality that each race is not the be-all, end-all of her career.

“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve tried to do it so many times in the past and hadn’t been able to just look at everything like, there’s going to be another race. I started telling myself it doesn’t matter that much, you might as well send it. I’d rather blow out skiing fast than cross the finish line going super slow. I was also able to start having fun,” she says.

Cashman’s cerebral adjustment is paying off not only in competition but in academic pursuits. This summer she started taking online classes at the University of Utah and — depending on what the 2020-21 competition schedule entails with pandemic protocols in place — will compete on both the college and World Cup race circuits.

“I started thinking about it at the beginning of last season. I had a lot of free time and started thinking about what I was doing with my life and realizing there was a lot more to life after skiing. I wanted to prepare for that,” she says. “Once we all got sent home this season, I was like, I need to do something. It’s been a while since I’ve done school … I finished high school a little early. I felt I wasn’t learning anything. I wasn’t progressing as a person. I started taking summer classes right away – Communications and Human Evolution. I liked them a lot. I’m still with the [U.S.] Ski Team, doing all the prep camps with them. I’m scheduled to race World Cup GS and speed – doing way more of that and less NorAms than last year, plus working in some college races, depending on what those races look like. If it was normal, we could look at the races and say, this is what I want to do. We can’t plan any type of schedule right now.”

While many young racers these days target their skill set onto a specific discipline, Cashman is determined to continue spreading her race talent around a variety of tracks.

“I wouldn’t say I like one event more than another,” she says. “I like skiing all the events. Particularly in the U.S., we force athletes at too young an age to specialize. They’re forced toward speed or tech. On the women’s side, we’re pushed to speed. I think to be a good speed skier, you need to have a good tech base and vice versa. I feel I can be competitive in all events right now. I wouldn’t want to give up one I feel I can do well at.”

That said, Cashman’s final curtain dream is not at all surprising.

“My ultimate goal is to win the overall globe,” she says. “It’s been a goal of mine since I started skiing. I just want to be competitive in all disciplines on the World Cup. Obviously, the Olympics are thrown in there, too, but right now it’s just going out there and skiing as well as I can. Being consistent for me was huge this year. Now I’m looking to be a competitor on the World Cup.”

Ski Racing Media Juniors of the Year

1975 –  Leslie Leete Smith          Steve Mahre

1976 –  Christin Cooper              Eric Wilson

1977 –  Heidi Preuss                  David Stapleton

1978 –  Tamara McKinney         Scott Hoffman

1979 –  Tamara McKinney         Mike Farney

1980 –  Noel Lyons                      Mark Tache

1981 –  Brenda Buglione             Tiger Shaw

1982 –  Eva Twardokens             Steve Hegg

1983 –  Eva Twardokens             Jesse Hunt

1984 –  Diann Roffe                     Jesse Hunt

1985 –  Carter Payne                    Tim Curran

1986 –  Hilary Lindh/Krista Schmidinger

1987 –  Sally Knight                    Tommy Moe

1988 –  Heidi Voelker                  Jeremy Nobis

1989 –  Kim Schmidinger           Tommy Moe

1990 –  Julie Parisien                 Ryan North

1991 –  Kathrine Davenport       Paul Casey Puckett

1992 –  Kathrine Davenport       Michael Makar

1993 –  Kristina Koznick            Chip Knight

1994 –  Kjersti Bjorn-Roli          Forest Carey

1995 –  Sarah Schleper             Wisi Betschart

1996 –  Kirsten Clark                Justin Johnson

1997 –  Jonna Mendes              John Minahan

1998 –  Jonna Mendes              Brad Hogan

1999 – Caroline Lalive              Marco Sullivan

2000 –  Julia Mancuso               Marco Sullivan

2001 –  Julia Mancuso               Jake Zamansky

2002 –  Julia Mancuso               Steven Nyman

2003 –  Julia Mancuso               Jeremy Transue

2004 – Lindsey Kildow              Ted Ligety

2005 –  Resi Stiegler                 Tim Jitloff

2006 –  Megan McJames          Christopher Beckmann

2007 –  Leanne Smith              Will Brandenburg

2008 – Kiley Staples                Tommy Ford

2009 – Julia Ford                     Tommy Ford

2010 –  Mikaela Shiffrin            Will Gregorak

2011 –  Mikaela Shiffrin            Ryan Cochran-Siegle

2012 –  Mikaela Shiffrin            Ryan Cochran-Siegle

2013 –  Mikaela Shiffrin            Ryan Cochran-Siegle

2014 –  Mikeala Shiffrin

2015 –  Mikaela Shiffrin           AJ Ginnis

2016 –  Mikaela Shiffrin           Erik Arvidsson

2017 – Alice Merryweather/Breezy Johnson     Sam Morse

2018 — Patricia Mangan. River Radamus

2019 — AJ Hurt River Radamus

2020 — Keely Cashman. ???

2 COMMENTS

  1. A big congrats, Keely!! One of her quotes so nailed one of the most basic and powerful messages I try to communicate to the athletes I work with: “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve tried to do it so many times in the past and hadn’t been able to just look at everything like, there’s going to be another race. I started telling myself it doesn’t matter that much, you might as well send it. I’d rather blow out skiing fast than cross the finish line going super slow. I was also able to start having fun,” If every young racer could adopt this wonderful philosophy, they would be free to “send it!” and be able to ski without doubt, worry, or fear. But, as Keely indicated, easier said than done.

  2. Keely, Congratulations on all of your accomplishments so far in your young career. I have enjoyed watching your progression since you first got on skies at Dodge Ridge. You are a driven and determined ski racer that will accomplish much more.
    I will never forget and make sure you don’t forget what you said to me when I asked you if you are ready for the Pinecrest fourth of July fishing derby ten years ago. You belted out, ” I WAS BORN READY!” Keep that thought in mind every time you slide in front of the wand.
    Go get em kid.

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