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Mammoth's culture

March 9, 2012

It’s not like we take it for granted, but sometimes we just forget how cool Mammoth is.

We’re thinking about our athletes and our culture. 
 
The list of professional, Olympic and collegiate champion athletes is astonishing. We write about them frequently, but the other day we did a “short list” of top-tier athletes who live and train here, and came up with 24—an amazing number for a town of just 8,000 souls.
 
Sometimes we forget that Police Officer Marty Thompson was a terrific tight end at Fresno State and played football with the Detroit Lions. He coaches our football team. Rusty Gregory was a great defensive player at Washington and the Kansas City Chiefs and runs our ski area.
 
We tend to overlook that that our culture of athletics also include gifted amateurs, such as Town Councilman Rick Wood, who won his age group and shattered his personal best at the Houston Marathon earlier this year. On the dais, he sits next to Skip Harvey, an accomplished ski patroller.
 
Naturally, among the runners are Olympic medal winners Meb and Deena, along with distance and track hopefuls such as Josh Cox, Jen Rhines, Patrick Smyth, Ryan Hall, Amy Hastings, Alistair Cragg, Angela Bizzarri and Morgan Uceny.
 
Wow! What a list!
 
But we’re not going to stop quite yet.
 
This past week, Carolyn Tierney of Bishop tore up the senior field at the World Masters Cross Country Ski Championships in Germany. Our local XC coach is a former Olympian (Nancy Fiddler).
 
We could go on and on, and we will.
 
Last weekend on Mammoth Mountain, Kaya Turski, a four-time gold medalist at the X Games, dominated the competition (again) in women’s slopestyle at the Grand Prix championships, while snowboarders Luke Mitrani and Greg Bretz placed second and third in the halfpipe (p.12), with Mitrani winning the “Best Trick” prize.
 
Snowboarding legend Danny Kass helped put June Mountain on the map, and we see him from time to time around here.
 
Oh gosh, we almost forgot Stacey Cook (p.1), who merely is the eighth fastest women’s downhill racer in the world and this week will compete in the World Cup Championships in Austria.
 
(Between the last race of the season and the championships, Cook came back to Mammoth to teach the kids. No wonder we have good skiers, boarders, runners and climbers, huh?)
 
And that guy over there? That’s not just any mechanic. That’s John Teller, a World Cup gold medal winner in skicross who made the podium this season in the second-to-last race.
 
We have perhaps the best and most knowledgeable mountain climber in Peter Croft, and our local surgeon, Mike Karch, is a terrific athlete and the guy who puts together the Mammoth Biathlon.
 
On any given morning or evening, the unnamed runners are out, in all weathers, training for something or another. In August, runners from high schools and colleges from all over California come up here for a week—sometimes a month—of high-altitude training.
 
Mammoth Tourism Executive Director John Urdi opened a “High Altitude Training Crib” last summer for cyclists, runners, tri-athletes and you-name-it. We hope the budget shortfalls don’t derail this project.
 
So yeah, we know we’ve got problems here, and lately they’ve been so big that they seem to be a bit overwhelming.
 
But then we look in the mirror and see who we really are, and who we can be.
 
We are athletes in a culture of athletics, and so proud that we could bust our buttons.
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