Starting in 1975, the editorial board of Ski Racing has come together each spring to choose one male and one female athlete deserving to hold the title of SkiRacing.com Junior of the Year.
Over the past 42 years, Ski Racing’s picks have gone on to earn 193 World Cup wins, 38 World Championship medals, and 13 Olympic medals. Past winners include 2017 Overall Women’s World Cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn, Ted Ligety, Julia Mancuso, Tamara McKinney, and Steve Mahre, among many others.
The athletes chosen by Ski Racing truly embody the spirit of the award and have not only achieved impressive success on the slopes this season, but have inspired countless racers across the country with their professional attitudes off of them.
The 2017 recipients of the Ski Racing Junior of the Year award are Alice Merryweather, Breezy Johnson, and Sam Morse.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, now we know how Steve Harvey and those people at the Academy Awards must have felt. In the original version of this announcement, we had the glaring omission of not including Breezy Johnson and her incredible breakout season on the World Cup. We made a mistake. We own up to it. We promise to do better!
For 21-year-old Idaho native Breezy Johnson, her first full season on the World Cup was supposed to be a learning experience. Instead, Johnson turned convention on its head and blew the doors off everyone’s expectations from the get-go and cemented her place on the World Cup race after race with impressive performances.
“I don’t think I could have expected to be this consistently fast everywhere that I’ve been so far so I’m really happy with it and just hope to keep it going,” Johnson said at this season’s Cortina d’Ampezzo World Cups. “I try not to let any of it go to my head, I just try to keep executing my plan the way that I know best, keep working on my technique and keep working on my skiing.”
And keep it going she did. Johnson went on to make her first World Championship team, placing 15th in the downhill and 28th in the super-G in St. Moritz and even qualified for her first World Cup Finals in Aspen and finished the season ranked 18th in the world in downhill.
The 20-year-old Massachusetts native chose to make her last year as a junior one to remember by locking down both the NorAm downhill title and World Junior downhill gold earlier this month in Are, Sweden.
Although making her World Cup debut last season in Garmisch, Germany, Merryweather relished the opportunity to close out this year’s World Cup campaign on home soil at World Cup Finals in Aspen, finishing in 19th place in the downhill. If this season is any indication of what is to come, look for Merryweather to make her mark on the World Cup sooner rather than later as she now has downhill starting rights all to herself by virtue of her NorAm title.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “I wanted to have this kind of season, but you never know how it’s going to turn out and to actually achieve a lot of my goals this year has been really cool. I’m really happy with it. It’s so fun to be at Sugarloaf because I spent so much time here growing up ski racing in the East and getting to end the season here is really, really fun.”
The self-described ‘Moose on the Loose’ used built up experience at big events like World Juniors to finally break through on the international level and take the World Junior downhill win on the same day as Merryweather, giving the United States a rare double gold performance and stamping his ticket to race his World Cup debut in Aspen at World Cup finals, where he finished 21st in the downhill.
Although Morse was not in contention for any NorAm titles this season, look for the big Mainer to build on his momentum and take the next step onto the World Cup in the coming years.
“It feels good, I’ve been kind of working towards this for a while,” he explained. “I’ve been to four World Juniors now and I’ve been incrementally getting better and better so it was nice to capitalize in the final one.”
Interestingly, Morse chose to run with bib 30 on race day at World Juniors, a carefully calculated decision between Morse and his coach, JJ Jonhson, who noticed some peculiar trends during the training runs. Needless to say, the decision turned more than a few heads at the team captain’s meeting but turned out just the way they wanted with Morse walking away with the gold.
“The snow was just heating up substantially on the top flats and getting faster right around those bib numbers. I had the first pick because I was number one ranked going into the race and we made the bold decision to pick 30 — no one ever picks 30. When we called that out at the meeting, all the Austrians and Swiss swung around like, ‘What is this kid doing? He’s an idiot!’ But, sure enough, the top flats were fast and I was able to put a good amount of time on the guys up there. It was really special when I came down with bib 30 with the green light.”
SkiRacing.com 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