Juneau monoskier Joe Tompkins posted four strong finishes last weekend during the Eastern Regional Disabled Ski Championships at Waterville Valley, N.H., giving him plenty of confidence for the upcoming U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Championships later this month.
"I feel really good, actually. Absolutely it was a good warm up," said Tompkins, a member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and 2002 Paralympian.
"I'm very happy. It was probably my best week of racing. I had my best slalom race ever. There were some guys (from the U.S. Disabled Ski Team) who have been taking the year off, but they were there, guys like Chris Devlin-Young. They're all going to be in Montana with us."
The U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Championships take place March 25-29 at Big Sky Resort in Montana.
U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team coach Kevin Jardine said during last month's Disabled World Cup ski races in Austria that Tompkins was showing a lot of improvement each race. Tompkins, who is in his first full season using a new mono-ski, said he agreed. Tompkins feels his recent improvement means he's getting ready to have a breakout race at nationals.
"I think so, I think I've been able to gradually keep getting better," Tompkins said. "It's nice that the coaches and other skiers tell me. I'm just being strong, training hard, being healthy and having my new mono-ski for a full year.
Tompkins finished third among monoskiers and third overall in adjusted time in the Super G race held on Wednesday. Tompkins' one-run adjusted time of 56.69 seconds was fast enough to beat several able-bodied skiers, and his raw time of 1:08.09 even beat a couple of able-bodied skiers.
Devlin-Young, a monoskier who lives in New Hampshire, won the race with an adjusted time of 54.57, while monoskier Nick Catenzerite took second place with an adjusted time of 56.67.
In disabled ski races, times are adjusted using a system that considers an athlete's degree of disability. Tompkins, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1987 auto wreck involving alcohol, is classified as an L-11 disabled skier, which means his paralysis starts midway down his back. The able-bodied skiers in the race had no adjustments made to their raw times.
In a second Super G race held on Thursday, Tompkins finished second among monoskiers and fifth overall. Tompkins had a single-run adjusted time of 1:01.08 and a raw time of 1:13.35.
Monoskier Tyler Walker, another New Hampshire resident, won the race with an adjusted time of 1:00.29. The next three finishers - Monte Meier (1:00.44 adjusted time), Timothy "Clay" Fox (1:00.63) and George Sansonetis (1:00.79) - were disabled standing skiers.
Tompkins took third among monoskiers and 11th overall in Friday's two-run giant slalom race. Tompkins had an adjusted time of 2:13.51 and a raw time of 2:39.11.
Timothy Paul Mitchell, an able-bodied skier, won the race with an adjusted time of 1:54.47, followed by Devlin-Young in an adjusted time of 1:55.58 and able-bodied skier Michael Nadolski in 1:59.31. Walker was the second monoskier and eighth overall with an adjusted time of 2:08.82. Four able-bodied skiers finished ahead of Tompkins.
In Saturday's two-run slalom race, Tompkins finished second among monoskiers and 10th overall. His adjusted time was 1:46.57 and his raw time was 2:21.51.
Nadolski won the race with an adjusted time of 1:28.83.
"I'm skiing stronger, and it helped having my Juneau friends here," said Tompkins about Johan Dybdahl and Javier Flores. "They came to watch me race and ended up volunteering."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.