Rastello, O’Brien lead Whittell ski team into ’03 season | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Rastello, O’Brien lead Whittell ski team into ’03 season

While the basketball and wrestling teams were nestled near the wood-burning stove during winter break, waiting for the storm to subside, traffic to disappear and Caltrans to clear the road, ski teams across the Tahoe Basin were quietly applauding Mother Nature for her delivery of a fresh ski season by heading outside to practice.

It was right about when the storm hit that Mike Kiger, new coach Steve Vaughn and a good portion of the Whittell High ski team grew tired of dryland training.

And with the new snow came the excitement of the season ahead, and the potential for the same kind of success as last year.

For Kiger, the track that Ben Johnson and Sean Weatherston left during the Tahoe Basin Ski League Championship last March is still fresh in his mind. The two skiers took the top two posts in the finals and Johnson earned league MVP.

The Warriors hope to repeat that kind of success this year when the season officially begins Wednesday at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort. And while the Warriors top three skiers have moved on, a younger core is waxing up and learning from the area’s talented ski programs.

From Heavenly Ski Education Foundation — where Weatherston is now a coach — James Rastello will join the team. So will freshman Holly O’Brien.

O’Brien recently earned an opportunity to ski with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Developmental team in Lake Placid, N.Y., after placing third in a special invitational giant slalom and slalom in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The Whittell freshman was one of 17 Junior-3 skiers from the Western Region to participate in the event.

It’s good to have talented, well-instructed skiers. But coach Kiger also knows that skiers like O’Brien don’t stick around when the U.S. Ski Team beckons, so he has to rely on his core of schussers to make up the difference.

Seniors Kim McGlothlin and Kathy Kiger are girls’ team captains. They’ll oversee a group of juniors, including Genette Bak, Allison Dunleavy, Sara Piccola, Brooke Schussel (Brett Schussel’s younger sister) and Ashley Daw among others.

While Rastello is the ace in the hole for Vaughn, finishing in the top 16 in last year’s finals as a sophomore, seniors Jarrett Gjuardo and Chris Grasso are the boys’ team captains. They’ll oversee juniors Patrick Flannagan, Justin Darrow and Sho Kashima among others.

“Last year, the boys were highly competitive,” Kiger said. “This year, you might as well call it a rebuilding year.”

The Warriors started practice Jan. 2 on World Cup Run at Heavenly.

“I’m not exactly sure who’s going to be out there this year, but there’s going to be a lot of tough competition,” Rastello said.

North Tahoe dominated the league last year, clinching the top post with one team race still remaining. South Tahoe and Truckee tied for runner-up and Whittell came in fourth, ahead of Incline and Douglas.

Racing schedule

Date Venue

Jan. 8 Alpine Meadows Jan. 21 Heavenly Valley

Jan. 29 Sierra-at-Tahoe Feb. 5 Kirkwood Feb. 12 Alpine Meadows Feb. 16 Diamond Peak

March 4 Alpine Meadows

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