McKean races to strong J3 finish |

McKean races to strong J3 finish

David Gignilliat

With a number of Far West Junior Olympic Team spots up for grabs at last weekend’s Junior 3 qualifying races at Mammoth Mountain, several area racers rose to the occasion, refusing to return to the South Shore empty-handed.

Heavenly Ski Foundation’s Chris McKean stole the show, winning a pair of slalom races and finishing third in giant slalom on the event’s final day. McKean parlayed his solid all-around performance into a spot on the Junior Olympic Team, one of seven Tahoe athletes to make the elite squad.

“It comes down to execution (performing at the next level),” said Hevanely Ski Foundation team director Noel Dufty. “This year we’ll see what happens in the big game.”

Over 130 competitors from both California and Nevada flocked to the race, a precursor for the upcoming Junior Olympics, March 14-17 at Bogus Basin Ski Resort in Boise, Idaho.

Joining McKean on the JO team will be fellow Heavenly mates Ben Johnson, Cory Harris, Sean Weatherston and Diana Higman; Sierra-at-Tahoe speedsters Danny Lear and Chris Little round out the local Junior Olympic contingent.

Whittell/STHS Alpine Results:

Prep Alpine ski teams braved less than favorable conditions at Alpine Meadows Wednesday in a final tune-up before next week’s Tahoe Basin League Championships.

“What started off as a beautiful sunny day became a tempest by 2:30 in the afternoon,” said South Tahoe coach Mike Shreve, in his first season competing in the ultra-competitive TBL. “The race was actually shut down, and we didn’t get to run all the boys for second run. The management feared safety and decided to give us the boot.”

Despite the inclement weather, the South Tahoe girls were able to win a heated battle for first place, defeating North Tahoe and Truckee. The boys were not as fortunate, picking up a distant third behind North Tahoe and Truckee. Whittell placed racers in the top six for both boys and girls, but couldn’t put together a supporting cast to vault them to a higher finish as both Warrior teams ended up fifth.

“They are young, but I was a little bit disappointed in how they did,” said Whittell coach Mike Kiger of his mid- to upper-level racers. “More consistency should be a goal for them next year, because I do think they have some strong potential to perform well.”

In the overall team standings, Truckee finished first, followed by North Tahoe, South Tahoe and Whittell in fifth. All six TBL teams will be back in action for the league championships March 2 at Heavenly Ski Resort.

Key individual performances on the girls side were turned in by South Tahoe’s Christie Higman (second) and Jamie Hansen (fifth) and Whittell’s Corky Novotny (fourth). Warrior Ben Johnson, a freshman, paced area racers with a sixth-place finish, followed by Viking Cory Harris at No. 10.

“I think Ben Johnson had a really good season, as did Novotny,” Kiger said. “Ben should be able to be in the top 10 somewhere (this weekend) and we’re hoping Corky can challenge for first place. That’s a good goal for her.”

The TBL championships will have a smaller field than the circuit’s regular season races, allowing coaches only to bring the top eight racers from the boys and girls sides. The race will also feature a dual slalom format, a style TBL racers haven’t competed in all season.

Shreve said his skiers will have to make necessary adjustments to accommodate for the somewhat unfamiliar discipline.

“It’s definitely going to be a different race. Some kids who aren’t as fast against the clock are extremely fast against an opponent,” Shreve said. “Some people need to have that carrot out in front of them – or in this case, on the side of them – to get the lead out.”

With a full season’s slate of TBL races under his belt, Shreve said he is pleased with how will his Vikings have acclimated themselves to their new league.

“As a first year coach in a new league, I’m real proud of our kids’ performance this year,” he said. “If you get a top 20 finish in this league, it’s as good as a top 10 in the other league.”

State Nordic Tournament:

The South Tahoe High Nordic Ski team has been a force in the California Interscholastic federation’s South division this season, and has more than held its own in statewide competitions.

The Vikings hope that pattern will hold true for Saturday’s season-ending state championship classic race Saturday at Auburn Ski Club in Truckee.

“I think right now, the girls are in fourth and the boys are fifth in state standings,” said South Tahoe Nordic coach Lynn Harriman, whose boys and girls are first and second, respectively in CIF standings. “I imagine that’s how we’ll finish unless we have some racers turn in some really excellent performances this weekend.”

Harriman said she expects freshman phenom Jeff Koeck and veteran Cory Harris to make statements at the season finale and finish in the top 10.

Harriman said she will take all of 14 of her skiers to race on the 7-kilometer course. The state championship aggregates overall points based on two events. South Tahoe missed the Dec. 27 state meet (the first part), and will have an uphill battle for points at this weekend’s second part.

“We had such a rough start, but I think they’re ready for this,” said Harriman, who had eight of 14 skiers attend an optional practice on Thursday. “We had to miss a race due to weather and the results of that race would have helped us, but I think we’ll still do well.”

Harriman recommends spending a day soaking in a number of beautiful vistas and watching some of youth Nordic skiing’s best strut their stuff.

“If people want to see nordic skiing and see what classic races are like at their best, they should head out Saturday. It should be a real treat for spectators.”

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