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Adult Sports: Extreme Sports
Hjelle ‘happy’ with top-8 finish at nationals
By Jeremy Mayo - Northwoods River News | Published: 04/12/2013

Braxton Hjelle, at left, competes in a boardercross heat during the USA Snowboard Association national championship April 3 at Copper Mountain, Colo. Hjelle, a Rhinelander High School senior, made it to the semifinals in his 26-man division. ( Photo By Submitted Photo )

     Rhinelander High School senior Braxton Hjelle already accomplished a major goal by simply qualifying for the USA Snowboarding Association’s national event. Once there, he knew he wanted more.

Showing unparalleled heart and determination, Hjelle raced to a top-eight finish in the event April 4 at Copper Mountain, Colo., and can safely say he is one of the best boardercross racers in America.

“It was pretty challenging racing against some of the best kids in the nation,” Hjelle said. “Nothing will ever beat the feeling of pulling out of a gate and racing towards the finish.”

     Earlier this winter, Hjelle placed first in the Midwest Region of the USASA competition, which earned him a spot among 25 other 18-22-year-old American males. Of the 26 total athletes who qualified for the national competition, most were living and training in prime boardercross conditions, including the high altitudes of Colorado and areas of California. Despite the geographical disadvantage, Hjelle was proud of his results.

“Considering I live in a small town and have a pretty limited ability to train (compared to some athletes), I am very happy with my results,” Hjelle explained.

In a typical boardercross race, a group of snowboarders, usually four, race down a narrow course cambered by jumps, drops, turns, berms, and steep and flat sections all designed to challenge their ability to maintain control. Given the years of experience Hjelle has under his belt, he feels the race has always been his calling.

The event began with a time trial. All 26 riders went through the course individually, and those who posted the 16 fastest times moved on. The bottom 10 were eliminated from competition. Hjelle had the sixth best time following the time trial round.

The remaining 16 competitors then raced in four groups of four, where the top two in each group moved on to the semifinals. Hjelle took second in his group and punched his ticket to the final group of eight. The top eight riders then raced in two groups of four to determine the final four.
Hjelle missed the final four by a agonizing two feet.

“At the point where I saw myself slipping into third in the semifinal, I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to come this far to lose,” Hjelle said. “I ran through the course with every ounce of energy I had and literally screamed and fell over when I passed the finish line, knowing I wouldn’t move on.”
Despite not qualifying for the finals, Hjelle said he had a great experience and felt good about his performance.

“Overall it was amazing. Just to see and compete at that level. To finish off my senior year in Colorado, I couldn’t ask for much more.”

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