West Gardiner native Devryn Valley is one of 30 U.S. competitors at this week’s World Junior Snowboarding Championships in Yabuli, China.
Valley, 19, has become one of the top young snowboard competitors in the country this winter. He qualified for the junior world championships after meeting the U.S. criteria with top-three finishes over six competitions in a two-week span at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, and at Ski Copper in Colorado.
In Quebec, Valley earned two first-place finishes.
He is competing in China with Carrabassett Valley Academy teammates Liam Moffett of Nova Scotia, Kristen Venuto of Massachusetts, Katie Wilson of Wisconsin and Maxim Yudajev of Kazakhstan. They will all be competing in snowboard cross races, also called boarder cross.
“I have been delighted with my performance this winter having qualified for the top rank for juniors in the U.S.,” Valley said.
He first started snowboarding at 6 and has been racing competitively since he was 13. He started boarder cross racing at 15. He said he enjoys the fast pace the style brings, which involves four snowboarders racing down the slope.
The race involves frequent turns and jumps, which appeal to Valley.
“What I love about snowboarding is that no matter the conditions, I can still have fun with anyone I’m riding with,” said Valley. “I am able to ride wherever I like, and I’m in control of how fast I go and which path I take to get there.”
The junior world championships began Sunday, but the snowboard cross races don’t begin until Friday. Despite competing against the best young snowboarders in the world, Valley remains optimistic about his chances in China.
“For juniors, my goal is to qualify and be able to make the top eight,” he said.
“[Qualifying for the junior world championships] opened my eyes to the fact that I might actually achieve my dream of making the U.S. team in the coming years,” he added.
Valley also is optimistic about the possibility of making the Winter Olympics in 2018, which would be held in South Korea.
“I do have plans to qualify [for the Olympics],” he said. “Whether or not that will happen is a different story, but I believe if I can progress enough between now and then, it could be a possibility.”
This won’t be the first time Valley will compete for the FIS world junior team. Last February, he was a member of the junior team, which competed in Italy, and he placed 22nd in the snowboard cross race. He hopes to capitalize on that international experience.
Making the trip with Valley is Mike Mallon, who is the head snowboard program director and head coach at Carrabassett Valley Academy. He was recently nominated to coach the U.S. team and will be making his 11th trip to the FIS Junior World Championships.
Mallon has been coaching at Carrabassett Valley Academy for many years and has worked with Olympians such as Seth Wescott and Bode Miller, whom Valley credits as his influences to compete.
Valley is a part of a long list of Olympic hopefuls who have competed at Carrabassett Valley Academy. The academy opened in 1969 specifically to help skiers improve their skills for competitive skiing. In 1989, Carrabassett Valley Academy became the first academy in the country to offer a snowboarding program. Since its opening, the program has produced several skiers and snowboarders who have competed beyond their years at the academy.