North Tahoe wins team title, but Whittell’s Barnwell races to 1st at Alpine Meadows
High school alpine racing continued Tuesday amid moderate snowfall at Alpine Meadows, making for challenging conditions for the dozens of skiers on the resort’s Kangaroo Run.
The North Tahoe boys remained unbeaten as a team, finishing the day with four of the six fastest times on the giant slalom course; while on the girls’ side, Truckee returned to the top of the podium for the first time since the season opener, just edging out the Lady Lakers.
The girls opened the morning’s competition and Truckee’s Emma Spillman took an early advantage with the fastest time in the opening heat.
North Tahoe’s Aliza Neu, however, would scorch the course on her second run, finishing with fastest time of the day to overtake Spillman for the win.
“Don’t ski cautiously, just send it,” said Neu on racing in the snowy conditions. “It’s rough because the snow will fill in the little holes on the course, so you can’t see the holes and you’re skiing and just hit one. You’ve just got to be expecting it.”
Neu finished the giant slalom event with combined time of 1 minute, 3.57 seconds. Spillman was second with a combined time of 1:03.84, followed by teammates Susie Greeno in third with a combined time of 1:05.66 and Monique Fellows in fourth with a combined time of 1:05.84.
North Tahoe skiers posted the next three fastest times. Taylor Brook (1:05.96) led the way, followed by Kacey Benjaminson (1:05.99), and Annika Johnson (1:07.24). Benjaminson, a freshman, won last week’s race at Heavenly Mountain Resort, but suffered a crash in the finishing area of today’s race. Benjaminson went down after crossing the finish line and slid into the netting. She would later be taken to the medical tent with a possible concussion.
Truckee’s Jacqui Roth was eighth place with a combined time of 1:08.34 to give the Wolverines the overall win with 211 points. North Tahoe was second with 209 points.
North Tahoe and Truckee skiers finished the morning with the 11 fastest times. Truckee’s Elsa Pekarek (1:08.61) was ninth, North Tahoe’s Ava Pekarek (1:09.15) was 10th, and North Tahoe’s Olivia Sproehnle (1:10.14).
Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the Lady Lakers are still far from full strength, according to Coach Gretchen Sproehnle, as two of North Tahoe’s best skiers, Jillian Ferre and Madeleine Roberts, have yet to race this season due to skiing International Ski Federation events.
“We have incredible depth, so even if one or two kids can’t come … we still have really great roster,” said Sproehnle.
For South Tahoe, Summer Furrer was the top finisher in 12th. She was 10thafter her first run and finished with a two-run total of 1:10.46.
Also for the Viking girls, Annie Ferguson was 15th, Kiara Furrer was 19thand Natalie Frazier was 20th.
“We had four girls in the top 20, which is really good for us,” said South Tahoe head coach Barbra Bedwell. “Summer and Annie both had solid runs and both Kiara and Natalie finished well too. The North Tahoe and Truckee girls are really dominant this year.”
Whittell’s Barnwell wins season debut
On the boys’ side, Whittell’s Gunnar Barnwell made his season debut, and ended the unbeaten run of North Tahoe’s Max Kelly.
Barnwell, who has been racing International Ski Federation competitions in Montana, edged Kelly by a half second with a combined time of 1:02.28.
“I’ve been doing a lot of racing outside of school,” said Barnwell. “I think that’s helped me a lot, I’ve been training a lot outside of school.”
Barnwell was the only skier to break the 31-second mark on the day, finishing his first run with a time of 30.46. He said the key to being fast on the snowy course was riding the ruts as much as possible, while being quick off the edges out of turns.
Kelly, who has three wins on the season, finished with a combined time of 1:02.78. North Tahoe’s Thomas Mercogliano was third with a combined time of 1:03.09, followed by Truckee’s Jason Roth with a combined time of 1:04.38, and North Tahoe’s Toby Gajar in fifth place with a combined time of 1:05.41. The Lakers’ Trent Carter was sixth with a combined time of 1:05.96, giving the Lakers four skiers in the top six, and a fourth overall team win on the year. The Lakers also had Bodie Hudson (1:06.48) finish in eighth place and Luke Giacobazzi (1:07.27)
North Tahoe finished with 212 points. South Tahoe was second with 173 points. Truckee was fifth with 157 points. The Wolverines also had Tyler Lamperti break into the top 10, finishing in ninth place with a combined time of 1:06.64.
Mark Allen was a picture of consistency for South Tahoe. He was 12th overall and his first (34.33) and second (34.27) runs were nearly identical.
Also for the Vikings, Cameron Grant was 13th, Aaron Johnson was 14thand Matt Sullivan was 16th.
“We earned a really solid second place, which is exactly what we were looking for.” Bedwell said. “The North Tahoe boys are dominant, but have a really tight group of boys that continually duke it out for top finishes: Mark, Cameron, Aaron, and Matt, with freshman Koa (Collin) hot on their tails.”
High school racing will continue next Tuesday, Jan. 22, with a round of slalom at Diamond Peak Ski Resort.
Newcomer on the course
The loudest cheers of the day at the bottom of the course didn’t go to the fastest skiers.
Instead, a newcomer to alpine racing, North Tahoe’s Jorge Oropezaibane, had the largest amount of support at the finish line, racing to a pair of solid times to the delight of Lakers teammates.
Oropezaibane, who is from Mexico and hasn’t been in the U.S. for a full year yet, according to Coach Sproehnle, was on skis for only the fifth day, but sent it in his first alpine race and finished his final run in under a minute.
“(Oropezaibane) just learned how to ski,” said Sproehnle in a text message. “So brave! Especially with this crew of rock stars. He had a huge fan club out there.”
Tahoe Daily Tribune sports and recreation editor Bill Rozak contributed to this report.