Bears are state champions

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald
Alyssa Winkelman made the All-State ski team and helped lead the Bears to the combined ski team title.

Mount Shasta High School won the 2009 CNISSF combined boys and girls state ski racing championship at Mammoth Mountain last week, led by three Bears who earned All-State awards for their combined points in slalom and giant slalom.

In all, five MSHS racers brought home individual event top 10 medals as the Bears won their first combined state championship ski racing banner since 2001.

On the snowboarding side, Mount Shasta claimed second place in girls snowboarding as a team and senior Kathleen Barney placed fifth on the girls All-State team for the second year in a row.

Snowboarders were challenged by freezing cold winds the first day of competition, March 9, but then the weather cleared and conditions were good.

The drama built as Mount Shasta’s ski team, following what coaches said was a marginal year of local races due to snow conditions, put itself in position to win the overall title last Wednesday and Thursday.

Ski racers on the girls side include seniors Kristen Mapes, Hannah Hall, Alyssa Backes, and junior Alyssa Winkelman.

Racing for the boys team were sophomores Eric Hake, Gavin Poore, John Holst, Cameron Posl, Zak Owens and freshman David Carter.

The skiers started off on Wednesday with a giant slalom race.

In the girls GS event Winkelman took 5th, Mapes got 9th, Hall took 18th, and Alyssa Backes took 21st in a field of 76.

In the boys GS event Carter took 9th; Hake took 11th; Holst, 30th; and Posl, 31st.

After the first day of competition the boys team was looking at a top three finish.

On the second day’s slalom race the boys finished strong. Hake took 8th; Carter, 11th; Gavin Poore, 17th; Zak Owens, 31st; and John Holst, 32nd, giving the combined team a slim advantage.

On the girls side Alyssa Winkelman started things off with a 3rd place first run and it was looking like Hall and Mapes were in the top 10, giving the team a good shot at 1st place in the combined, according to coaches Mike Backes, Sheldon Criss and Rick Poore.

However on the second run of the girls slalom Mapes, normally rock solid throughout her career, clipped the second gate and lost her ski, disqualifying her from the event. The Bears then needed both Hall and Backes to finish with strong clean runs to stay in the title hunt.

This is the first year Hannah Hall has made it to the state championships in both events. Coaches said she has been racing since she was in grade school and has competed in previous state championships and was looking forward to redeeming some past disappointments.

Coaches said Hannah’s second run was “spectacular,” earning her 9th place for the day.

Recounting her feelings at the time, Hall said, “It was the second run of the slalom race, and Kristen had just fell... so I knew I had to finish. The pressure was on to do well. I knew I?had to pull through for the team.”

“Waiting at the bottom of the hill for Hannah to finish was so nervewracking,” said Winkelman, who was on her way to a third place finish in the All-State team. “When we saw that she made it, we were all so excited.”

Alyssa Backes, although rarely finishing in the top 10, always runs a clean race, rarely falls and always finishes in the top 20, the coaches said. Just like clockwork, she finished with a 23rd place, earning enough points to give the girls a 2nd place finish just behind Placer High School.

Backes said waiting at the awards ceremony, the team was nervous. “When they announced that Davis finished in second place, we knew for sure we won.”

“We have a strong team,” Backes said. “We have all been skiing together since we were really young. We all get along really well.”

“It felt really good,” said Gavin Poore. “It’s amazing we could do that, and we’re such a small school.”

With the boys team in 3rd place and the girls with 2nd place honors, the Bears were the only team to place in the top three on both sides and placed 1st place for the California-Nevada State Championship.

It used to be a tradition for teams to dress up in a certain theme for the awards ceremony. This year the MSHS team was the only one to dress up – in 1980’s ski gear. “To dress up and then win was so awesome,” said Winkelman.

All-State honors for the boys went to Eric Hake, who placed 7th, and David Carter for 9th.

While the MSHS girls team has three outgoing seniors and one junior, the boys team was made up of five sophomores and one freshman.

The Bears have won their share of snowboarding championships in recent years, but it was eight years ago that they won their last combined ski racing title with a team that featured 2001 state overall champions Hanne Coots and Chris Tuggle, state slalom champion Shannon Criss and Hallie Stiles, who placed No. 3 on that year’s All State team.

Snowboard success too

The week started off with snowboard racing. On Sunday it was decided to hold the slalom race Monday rather than the longer GS race due to predicted high winds higher up on the ridge.

Monday morning the winds were even stronger than predicted. The winds at the top of the ridge blew at a steady 55 miles per hour. However, due to the funneling effect of the winds coming over the ridge and down on the race course, winds were recorded at 150 mph plus, according to the coaching staff.

After course inspection the chairlifts closed and racers were forced to hike the race course. The day was an endurance test just to get up the hill to race.

“It was super steep and the wind was coming at you, you had to duck and hold your ground to keep going,”?said Kathleen Barney. “It was cold and miserable.”

Despite all that, Barney finished 5th in slalom, Kjerstin Wood added a 16th place finish and Audrey Weston brought 104 points with a 27th finish from a field of 92.

The boys race was just as challenging, Mount Shasta boys Chris Lucio, Jonah Brenner and Evan Caldwell brought home 59th, 71st and 74th respectively.

On the second day for the snowboarders, the weather improved significantly, winds dropped to nearly zero and the sun came out. Some got sunburned.

In the girls GS Wood put up a strong 9th place finish; and following a small bobble, Barney finished 11th; with Audrey Weston putting points on the board with a 27th finish.

In the boys GS Chris Lucio finished 51st and Jonah Brenner finished 65th in a field of 107.

Barney finished 5th overall and the Mount Shasta High School girls snowboard team took 2nd overall in the state.

Kathleen Barney claimed her second consecutive fifth place All-State finish at Mammoth Mountain last week and led the Mount Shasta girls snowboard team to the podium.