Higman, Weatherston rise to top in TBL finals
The Tahoe Basin League held its own version of March Madness at Heavenly Ski Resort on Tuesday, but the results were far from maddening for area teams.
The Whittell and South Tahoe High School Alpine teams saw an elite field of the league’s 96 fastest skiers whittled down to 32, 16, 8, 4 and finally 2 as the eventual boys and girls champions were crowned.
It was a local sweep in the girls final, as South Tahoe High racers Christie Higman and Jamie Hansen battled it out for 1-2. Higman, a senior, came out on top in her finale as a high school racer. During the round of 16, it was sibling rivalry played out on the snow as No. 2-seeded Higman defeated her sister, No. 15 Diana, in the round of 16.
“Christie was flawless. She’s an incredible athlete, but that’s only second to her positive attitude,” said South Tahoe coach Mike Shreve. “She’s a role model no matter where she goes.”
Whittell’s Corky Novotny completed the all-South Shore podium by picking up third in the consolation finals. Novotny, a junior, said she will likely have enough credits to graduate before next Alpine season, meaning she may have skied in her last high school race.
“It was a really fun day because it was on our home mountain and we’re all Heavenly girls out there,” Novotny said. “It was an interesting race because we didn’t have to wait that much and we got plenty of runs in.”
Skier Sean Weatherston scorched the course and finished a surprising second in the boys competition for Whittell. Weatherston, seeded No. 10 after the morning prelims, barreled through three skiers to join fellow underclassmen Ben Johnson, a quarterfinalist, as the only Warriors in the final 16.
“He did all well all year long, but he’d fall sometimes in his second run,” Whittell coach Mike Kiger said. “But today he didn’t fall. He came on strong and took second. We were pleased to be represented in the finals.”
South Tahoe had four racers in the final 16 – Jon McKean, Cory Harris, Chris McKean and Chris Little – though none made it into the event’s semifinals.
The competition, held on the resort’s renown World Cup Run, featured a dual slalom format where winners advanced to further rounds and losers were eliminated. This TBL championships marked the first time this season that league racers have skied this format.
“It was kind of weird. I didn’t even get to race, Jamie (Hansen) but she beat me in the final standing,” Novotny said. “It kind of (stinks). If you don’t do well (on) one run, you’re out of the meet.”
Less than desirable weather conditions, often a problem during the TBL regular season, were nowhere to be found as sunshine, clear skies and powder skiing ruled the day.
The Vikings joined the TBL this season, leaving the California Interscholastic Federation for the more collegial confines of the Tahoe-area division. Shreve said he enjoys the keen competition and the local flair that the league has to offer. His team was welcomed almost immediately.
“It was almost like a family reunion out there. A lot of the kids seem to know each other from Far West competitions,” Shreve said. “There seemed to be a lot of instant connections out there. Because of the distance … none of that really happened in our old league.”
Asked to reflect on a season where South Tahoe was the ‘new kid in town,’ Shreve instead kept his eye on the future.
“We’re a diamond in the rough, having a lot of underclassmen girls leaving,” Shreve said. “We’re going to be faced with a brand new team and we’re going to be shaped and defined as a unit by how they do next year.”
Whittell finished fourth in the TBL final standings, and the Warriors appear to be just one or two top-class racers short of cracking into the TBL’s upper crust, dominated by South Tahoe, North Tahoe and Truckee.
“We feel pretty good about the season we had,” Kiger said. “We thought we had a nice season. We may have the possibility to do well next season. And if ever we make inroads into the top three, that would be a super year for us.”
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