The Vikings ski team is stacked with veterans and depth, meaning this year's podium places are hard to predict.
South Tahoe graduated five seniors last year. The Vikings enter this season with 12 seniors and some incredible depth from their sophomores and juniors. So when it comes to choosing the top eight girls and boys, head coach Mike Shreve said the positions could go to anyone.
"That's the great thing about ski racing, it's all by results," Shreve said. "Nobody has a guaranteed position. I love it when the coach is embarrassed because a varsity skier gets beat at the race by a JV. The next week they get to take that varsity skier's place."
Best of the ladies
Currently, leading the ladies' top eight is sophomore Maia Bickert.
Bickert is gifted on skis, and has the potential to ski as well as anybody on the U.S. Ski Team, Shreve said. She also just plain and simple enjoys the sport.
"She is skiing red hot right now in the Far West ," Shreve said. "So as a sophomore we know we have two more years of her being with us. It's just going to be limited as to how much."
Limited, because Far West is an elite division of USSA, and its skiers are often invited to bigger competition.
Another gifted girl on the Vikings roster is sophomore Mikaela Clothier.
"Those two ladies are going to be our standouts," Shreve said. "One of them will be on the podium every race."
Last season, Clothier won South Tahoe's hosted race at Sierra-at-Tahoe.
"All of her racing peers were acting like it was a fluke in the first run, so she went out on the second run and beat them all again. That's just the kind of gal she is," Shreve said.
Both Bickert and Clothier are Far West skiers, though, and will potentially miss races when they get invited to bigger competitions.
Katie Sears, however, is newer to the Far West scene, which means she'll have an opportunity to be on the podium most consistently for South Tahoe.
The junior has started to dial it in this season, and stands a good chance of winning the overall Tahoe Basin League since she'll be at more races.
"I would put her in the top three of our overall well-rounded most consistent athletes," Shreve said.
The Vikings add some depth with team captain Annie Kate Genasci and junior Mikela Mangiaracina, who was named All-League and All-State last year.
Sophomore Natalie Allen, who won the dual head-to-head competition at the end of last season, will also bring some impressive depth to the ladies' roster. Andi Ebright will round out the girls' top skiers. The team lost Ebright for three years when she moved away, but now that's she's back Shreve said a definite top eight.
"She's just a very dynamic skier," Shreve said.
Abi Killebrew will be the girls No. 8 heading into the season, but Kailey Killeen and Cassidee McDonough are going to be in there too at some point this season.
Last year, this team took gold in ladies slalom, and runner-up in almost every other category.
"We've got the same kind of firepower this year with just a little more maturity and experience under their belts," Shreve said.
Best of the gents
When asking coach Shreve what he thought of the boys team this year, he said "Call me after the first race and I'll tell you then.
"It's a Wild Card. I don't think I can put any one guy at the top of the pile."
So let's start with the best of last year.
That would be junior Connor McKeen, who was last season's top skier and runner-up in the league for All-State.
"He's always good for a top four or five finish, even against all the other Far West kids, and he's a non-Far West skier," Shreve said.
Expect to see seniors Jason Elder and cross-country running champion Conner Henderson among the top 10 this year.
"You can just say that Conner Henderson's first sport is skiing, and his second sport in life is running," Shreve said. He grew up across the street from us, and he's definitely a ski junkie."
Far West skiers Austin Allen and Alec Jobbins will also likely be in the top eight. Jobbins is an impressive skier that Shreve is looking forward to seeing in the race arena.
Senior Jake Krazczek is in a good position to have a breakout year, and juniors Grant Fagen and Chad Kaassamani will round out the varsity team. -
"Chad Kaassamani, Mr. Technician, very technical, very solid. You can take him to the bank," Shreve said.
But like Shreve said, these top spots are far from set in stone.
"We've got 14 more guys who will be skiing in that JV position, who are always wanting to humble the coach, and do well at the race so they can bump one of those varsity guys," Shreve said.