Area skiers reaching for stars |

Area skiers reaching for stars

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Dan ThriftMarty Harris of Heavenly Ski Foundation practices with the race team on Wednesday at Heavenly Ski Resort. Harris is fresh off a 15th-place finish in the Topolino race in Italy

Pick a skiing star on the South Shore, any star.

There are many choices.

With the Junior Olympic qualifying for the Far West Division concluding last week at Mammoth Mountain, the local ski teams have a number of contenders to win medals at the upcoming regional races. The results have been so good that it’s starting to look like the good old days when Alicia Howard, Jonna Mendes and Wisi Betschart used to rule the roost.

Heavenly’s Holly O’Brien won a girls’ J3 super-G and was third in a second race on Feb. 15 at Mammoth. Her winning time of 1 minute, 6 seconds was .42 a second faster than Bayley Hamilton of Sugar Bowl.

“She has been really picking it up. Every qualifier she’s been going to she has been bringing results in,” said Heavenly J1-3 coach Patricia Schneeberger of O’Brien, who finished third in the final standings despite missing two races.

Corrine Rotter won the other super-G by .74 of a second over Hamilton and O’Brien was .77 back.

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“I’ve been on snow a lot (this year) and I’ve been working very hard to get into the top,” O’Brien said.

Kirkwood’s Bryce Wehan and Nick Cohee along with Heavenly’s P.J. Bacon have become fixtures in the top 8 of Far West J3 races. Even without Marty Harris, a J3 from Heavenly, the area’s other up-and-comers are top-5 regulars.

“All the kids my age have been racing forever together and we’re all coming closer together now,” Bacon said. “It has gotten more competitive.”

Harris won three of the four races he’s entered but training at Lake Placid and racing in Italy has limited his local opportunities.

In the final weekend of JO qualifying, Wehan was first and second in super-G racing. Bacon and Cohee were also right in the mix with Bacon fourth and eighth and Cohee fifth and sixth. Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley was the runaway winner in the first super-G of the day, winning by 1.70 seconds.

“The J3s had a great year. It was a good group with high energy and one that jelled well and supported each other,” said Heavenly second-year coach Sean Warman.

A week earlier at Mammoth the J1s through J3s raced together in super-G.

Heavenly’s Christopher Little, a J1, was second to Errol Kerr (58.69) of Squaw Valley, losing by .26. Kyle Kracht, a J2 from Heavenly, came in eighth at 1:01.19.

The region’s strong J3s weren’t far off the winning pace as Wehan came in 16th and Bacon 25th. Erik Sambraillo, a J2 from Kirkwood, was 22nd; James Rastello, J1 from Heavenly, was 38th; Jonathan Little, J2 from Sierra, was 44th; and Matthew Galdin, J3 from Heavenly, was 53rd.

In the other boys’ super-G race that day, Little was fourth as Kerr again was the winner. Kracht came in 12th, Wehan 15th and Sambraillo 29th. Sierra’s Donnie Little III finished 44th, Bacon 48th, Galdin 52nd, Kirkwood’s Aaron Sanders 57th and Jonathan Little 58th.

In the girls’ two super-G races on Feb. 9, Kendall Northrop, a J2 from Heavenly, produced a pair of top-5 results. She was runner-up to Sugar Bowl’s Erika Horst, losing by only .56 and fifth in a race won by Sugar Bowl’s Hailey Kimmel.

Kylese Zaiger, a J2 from Sierra-at-Tahoe, was third in the first super-G race and didn’t finish the other.

Other local results were O’Brien, 18th and 19th; Kirkwood J3 Shelby Hawthorne, 31st and 26th; Heavenly J3 Heather Patterson, 33rd and 25th; Heavenly J1 Grace Harding, 40th and 28th; Heavenly J3 Andrea Killebrew, 43rd twice; Heavenly’s Lacey Leonard, 49th and 48th.

On Feb. 8, the J1s, J2 and J3s kicked off the big weekend of super-G racing with Christopher Little and Northrop leading the area results. Northrop was third and Little fifth. Kerr won the boys’ race, while Kimmel took the girls. Kracht was 11th and Sambraillo 15th.

Zaiger finished ninth and O’Brien 12th.

Teams are now training hard for the upcoming Junior Olympics. The J1-J2 Olympics are set for March 17-23 at Mammoth and the J3-4 JOs are March 20-23 at Big Sky, Mont.

Note: Heavenly’s J1s made a strong showing in slalom earlier this month at Mount Rose. Cory Harris won both races; Chris McKean was third and 11th; Danny Lear, who excels at downhill, came through with a fourth; and Northrop, a J2, had a best of ninth.