Tough conditions don’t slow down WHS’s Gardner |

Tough conditions don’t slow down WHS’s Gardner

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor
Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily TribuneJosh Johnson works his way toward the end of a slalom course during a Tahoe Basin League event Monday at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Tahoe Basin League skiers weren’t complaining about the wet conditions Monday at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Perhaps if they were of a certain World Cup status, they might have. But the racers from Lake Tahoe-area schools came to World Cup Run to race – especially after having an event postponed on Friday at Diamond Peak. Their focus was tested as the conditions in front of them were ever changing. Large snowflakes at the top of the course, rain at the bottom of hill and pockets of fog kept the slalom racers on their toes. Heavenly’s Race Department made sure the event went along smoothly and safely.

Whittell High’s Whitney Gardner, who has struggled with her slalom skiing this season, responded to the demanding natural elements. She put together consistent runs of 29.82 and 29.97 seconds for a total time of 59.79 to finish runner-up to Incline’s Grace Dolan in the girls’ division.

“I do my best to try to look ahead and be ready for what’s coming,” Gardner said. “I had some clear goggles so I was all right, and it cleared up before I ran, so I got lucky.”

Dolan won both runs and was timed in 57.91.

“(Whitney’s) been training hard the last couple of days with us and the (Heavenly) Foundation, getting a lot of skiing in,” said Whittell coach Patrick Kelly. “She really put together a good race today. Two times under 30 is pretty impressive.”

Gardner nearly picked up her first Far West of the season.

“Grace is a pretty good skier, and I’m always trying to tag along with her,” said Gardner, who also races in Far West events. “I’ve actually been having a really hard time finishing (slalom) this year. I’ve finished like two races out of probably 10 this season.

“But I finally put two together.”

Ashley Killeen led the South Tahoe girls, finishing in fifth place at 1:02.60. Like Gardner, Killeen was consistent, stringing together runs of 32.27 and 31.33 seconds. Despite not having any finishers on the podium, the Vikings were able to pull off a one-point team victory over Truckee.

“The fact that the guys pulled it off by (four) points and the girls by one is unbelievable,” said South Tahoe High coach Mike Shreve. “The amazing thing is there is so much depth to our team.”

With Killeen being followed by Lindsey Buchanan in sixth (1:05.76), Kelsey Henderson in seventh (1:06.86), Melissa Ewing in 12th (1:1078) and Melissa Smith in 13th (1:11.59), the Vikings were able to edge the Wolverines, 166-165.

North Tahoe was third with 138 points, Douglas fourth at 124, Whittell fifth at 112 and Incline sixth at 77.

South Tahoe’s boys, the defending state champions who had won the previous two events, relied on their depth to overcome some subpar performances and an unavailable competitor. The Vikings finished four points ahead of Truckee, North Tahoe was third, Whittell and Douglas tied for fourth and Incline was sixth.

Senior Chris Whatford led the Vikings with a fifth-place finish (57.18), and teammates took up the next four slots: Jake Daum, who was sixth, was the only other Viking under a minute (59.90), then came Pierce Bickert in seventh (1:00.22), Erich Baumann in eighth (1:00.60) and Luca Genasci in ninth (32.45).

Whatford was able to post the team’s top result despite drawing the dreaded last starting position for the opening run. Daum also was a pleasant surprise after going into the day as the team’s No. 1 JV racer. But Daum got the varsity nod when a teammate was unavailable to compete.

“He just skied fantastic,” Shreve said. “Jake gets the coach’s most improved person award. It was the best result of his entire high school career.”

Genasci hip-checked on his second run, or he would have placed higher, and junior Mikey Suglian, one of the league’s top racers, did some hiking on his second run after straddling a gate but was still able to finish 13th. The Vikings raced without Justin Smaine.

Whittell freshman Kody Dangtongdee made up for several missing teammates and finished 10th in 1:03.44. Dangtongdee wasn’t too concerned about falling in the tricky conditions.

“The snow was sticky, and the visibility wasn’t that great. I tried to adapt to the conditions. I looked ahead more,” he said.

The Warriors’ Sean Sullivan was 18th, Adam Kingman 21st and Eric Ward 22nd. Whittell raced without Simon Nikles and Austin Norton.

South Tahoe produced the winners in both JV races. Brady Hiob took first in the boys’ JV race at 1;07.70, and Jenna Thomas was No. 1 for the girls at 1:19.55. The dominant JV Viking boys took the top seven spots. Jake Krazczek was second, Jared Lindner third, Connor Henderson fourth, James Coolbaugh fifth, Luke Daum sixth and Josh Johnson seventh. Kailey Killeen was runner-up in the girls’ JV race.

The Emily Clothier Memorial Race has been pushed back until Feb. 1 or 4 when the TBL returns to race at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

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