Harris tops region in Topolino race | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Harris tops region in Topolino race

Chris WellhausenSTHS skier Marty Harris speeds down the course to post the fastest time of the day in a Tahoe Basin League ski race Wednesday at Alpine Meadows

Flourishing Heavenly Foundation skier Marty Harris spent most of 2002 breaking bones. The 14-year-old hopes that the only breaking he does in 2003 is in the record books.

Skipping the year it customarily takes to recover from serious injuries, Harris has stormed out of the gate this season. He overwhelmed the field to win the Western Region Topolino Shootout last weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

As a result, the South Tahoe High School freshman is one of six Americans who have qualified for the 14-and-under youth world championships in February in Topolino, Italy.

Harris can already taste his first trip to Italy.

“I’m curious about their foods — especially their pizza,” he said.

Last season, Harris broke his ankle during a Far West super-G race in December of 2001, then suffered a broken leg during a summer downhill camp. Physical therapy treatments and regular visits to the gym made Harris almost as good as new.

But it was Harris’ drive and determination to succeed that lifted him to another level, said Heavenly coach Sean Warman.

“He is a training machine,” said Warman, whose prize pupil estimates that he trains 50 hours per week. “I know he has been working hard, so that’s what makes this so exciting.

“He’s been a strong competitor all along. Last year, he was skiing quite well but wasn’t seeing the results I think he deserved.”

The Western regional included skiers from California, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Harris bested 19 other regional stars to join Wisi Betschart, Jonna Mendes, Marco Sullivan and Julia Mancuso as other former Far West racers from Lake Tahoe to qualify for the world championships in Topolino.

“I’m proud to do it and I just hope to do well,” Harris said.

The Shootout format called for three races in giant slalom and three more in slalom. The participants could throw out their worst finish in each discipline and then their results were totaled.

Harris won two slalom and two GSs, giving his competitors no chance of winning. His total time was more than 3 seconds faster than the runner-up.

“Marty’s performance was a lot like Tiger Woods. Once he won the very first run, he kept the hammer down on them. He stayed very consistent,” said Darryl Whitaker, regional youth coordinator for the United States Ski Association and a former Kirkwood program director.

The Far West Division’s success didn’t stop with Harris. Heavenly teammate Holly O’Brien finished third in the girls’ division, winning a GS along the way. O’Brien’s results qualified her for training with the U.S. Development Team Jan. 20-27 at Lake Placid, N.Y.

Diamond Peak’s Amy Harris, no relation to Marty, won the girls’ overall title, winning two slaloms, and will also make the trip to Topolino. Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley was fourth among the boys.

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