Early snowfall hypes up Vikings
After an early December storm dumped 2 feet of snow on the South Shore and with the forecast suggesting more is on the way, members of the South Tahoe High Nordic Ski team are smiling wide.
In past years, training on this much snow, this early in the season, has been far from reality.
“It’s huge,” Viking senior Jeff Koeck said. “For the last couple years we’ve been dryland training for the first two months, so this is a great benefit that we’ve never had before.”
Koeck, one of three returning varsity skiers from last year, will be the leader on a Nordic team that is filled with new faces.
“Jeff is a real strong skier,” Viking coach Julia Russell said. “He brings a lot of strength to the technique, so we’re expecting him to have another good year.”
Last season, Koeck skied well enough to place in the top 10 in nearly every race he entered.
The Vikings will also welcome back senior Marin St. Michel, their only varsity girls skier for the past two seasons.
St. Michel’s performance at last year’s state competition was good enough to place the Vikings fifth among nine teams.
“I’m really looking forward to another season,” St. Michel said. “My goal is to do better than I did last year, but more importantly to have a lot of fun.”
Rounding out the returning skiers is senior Adam Matzinger, who consistently finished in the top 20 last year.
“Adam is really coming along strong since he started,” Russell said. “He’s really enthusiastic and very committed. He comes to every practice and works very hard, so I’m definitely expecting good things from him.”
Russell will also look to Ansel Robinson, who will ski at the varsity level as a sophomore.
Last year Robinson’s times at the JV level were faster than quite a few at the varsity level, so Russell decided to bring him up this year.
“Ansel is really an up-and-coming skier,” Russell said. “We’ve been looking forward to getting him up there (to varsity) and see what he can do.”
While the team has its backbone in Koeck, St. Michel and Matzinger, coach Russell is excited to teach a large group of newcomers coming into the program.
“It’s terrific for the program because it gives us a chance to teach the technique and get them going for the whole four years,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to working with some of the new kids individually and watching their skills change from year to year.”
The Vikings open their season Friday at Royal Gorge and begin their quest to achieve their season goals of improving on last year’s third-place finish for the boys and fifth-place for the girls.
“We’d like to do really well by the end of the season and place at least within the top three,” Koeck said. “We’re hoping to get at least second or even possibly first, but it depends on how well we can perform and where we are at the end of the season. It’s really too early to tell.”
While the Vikings have their minds set on improving, the camaraderie of competing together and having fun as a group appears the common theme as they head into another season.
“We are looking to have fun and work together as a team,” Russell said. “Even though it’s an individual sport, these guys have really been coming together to support each other and work as a unit, because that makes a big difference, even in an individual sport.”
Koeck echoed his coach.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of fun this year,” he said.
“We have a lot of good skiers and a lot of good people coming up, so I think we’re going to do really well this year, all while having a lot of fun and that’s what’s important.”
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“Let Them Play,” rallies are taking place across California with a mission to bring back high school and youth sports.