South Tahoe series lord of the boards again
For most of the winter you’re either from Sierra at Tahoe or you represent Heavenly Ski Foundation. The divisions are clear-cut and the rivalries run deep, but when late March rolls around the area snowboarders become one and collectively the South Tahoe Snowboard Series has become the nation’s best in amateur snowboarding.
That unity was never more evident than when the USASA National Championships opened last week at Mammoth Mountain. The throng of boarders representing Tahoe’s South Shore had a threepeat national title in mind, and their harmony immediately put the other clubs around the country on edge as they entered the resort.
“There were 60 of us screaming, ‘South Shore pride,’ who marched up to statue at the base of the mountain,” said STSS co-director Donna Vano.
They were greeted, not with respect, by with an ambush of snowballs.
“A huge snowball fight broke out between the whole country and our series,” Vano said. “After that, we were like, ‘We’d better live up to our reputation.'”
And that they did.
For the third straight year, STSS claimed the most medals, capturing 79 spots on the podium. However, the North Shore series gave the three-time champions a run for its money, claiming 75 medals.
“It was neat seeing the camaraderie of pulling together against the rest of the country for such a big event,” said Heavenly coach Ed McClain. “As we get ready for nationals we train together. It’s really important that the coaches pull together and coach the other kids because we were spread out at the different venues.”
Heavenly 11-year-old Elena Hight, Nancy Ng of Homewood and South Lake Tahoe’s Donna Vano set the pace, combining for 26 gold medals.
Hight won her third straight overall national championship by once again dominating the girls 10-11 menehune division. In three years, Hight has only a silver medal standing between her and gold medal perfection.
“She’s just incredibly talented,” McClain said. “She’s just not beating girls in her group but also the girls in the group above her in slalom and halfpipe.
“It’s a tribute to a strong gymnastics background, an incredible love for the sport, dedication, encouragement from her parents and top-notch coaching.”
Hight wound up with more gold around her neck than Deion Sanders, including firsts in halfpipe, slalom, GS, boardercross, slopestyle, Alpine overall, freestyle overall, combined and triple overall.
Hight’s time in the slalom (71.5) and score in the halfpipe (18.5) were untouchable as she buried the field. Sierra’s Jamie Anderson was the only other boarder to break 80 seconds in the slalom, but she repeatedly had to settle for silver medals. In all, she collected eight silvers and one bronze.
Ng, a Sierra-at-Tahoe employee, claimed nothing but gold medals in the masters women’s 30-39 class.
Meanwhile, Vano ran into more competition than in previous nationals, but that only seemed to make her perform better. The 47-year-old won eight gold medals in the legend women’s 40-49 division. A fourth-place finish in boardercross (North Tahoe’s Valerie Stewart won it) prevented her sweeping the division across the board.
One of the bigger golds won during the weeklong competition was the one earned by Ryan Bosson in the giant slalom. Competing in the breaker boys 12-13 category, which included 901 kids, Bosson cruised to a 3-second victory with his winning GS time of 75.92.
“He’s been riding really well in practice. He had a few bobbles and still won by 3 seconds,” said McClain, who won the only event he entered, the senior men 23-29 boardercross. “It could have been any of our (breaker) kids. They have all been riding well, but that was his day.”
Sierra’s Stacie Anderson wore a nice blend of silver and gold by the end of the week. She collected four golds and five silvers in the breaker girls class. Her consistency provided her with golds in the freestyle, Alpine, combined and triple overall after several near firsts in GS and slalom. Anderson lost the GS by 1.93 seconds and the slalom by .61.
Colleen Sheehan also was strong in the division, placing fifth in three events and third in boardercross.
In one of the toughest divisions – junior men 16-17, which lured a field of 111 – Wesley Klahn earned a silver medal in triple overall after laying down fourth-place finishes in boardercross and combined. Afterward, the South Tahoe High rider left to compete with U.S. Junior National Team in Italy.
Sierra coach Brady Gunsch gave the 62-competitor strong men’s open class fits. Gunsch won the boardercross, combined and triple overall. He also was second in alpine overall, third in freestyle overall and slalom and fourth in GS.
Brent Kuemmerle of South Lake Tahoe was a force in the adaptive division, earning three medals. He was second in both the GS and Alpine overall and third in slalom.
Other medals earned by the South Shore went to Dwayne Davis, first in halfpipe, master men 30-39; Scott Johansen, master men 30-39, third in slalom, boardercross and Alpine overall; Mika Hight, ruggie boys 7 and under, third in halfpipe; Keelan Gardiner, breaker boys 12-13, third in boardercross; Joanie Anderson, youth women 14-15, first in halfpipe and freestyle overall, second in slopestyle and third in combined and triple overall; Jimi Toomer, junior men 16-17, used fourths in halfpipe and slopestyle to finish second in freestyle overall; Andrea Tomcik, jams women 18-22, second in freestyle overall and third in halfpipe; Tara Parina, jams women 18-22, second in boardercross; Eddie Smith, jams men 18-22, second in combined and third in triple overall; Borden Panesa, jams men 18-22, first in slopestyle and second in freestyle overall; Neiko Pagaduan, senior men 23-29, second in freestyle overall and third in halfpipe; and Jonathan Hirschfield, senior men 23-29, first in giant slalom.
In the end, it was enough to hold off their former teammates, North Tahoe.
“North Shore was really bummed that we beat them again,” Vano said. “We have this friendly rivalry, but they were saying that North Shore is ruling and South Shore is drooling. But the term I have for it is that North Shore is ruling in numbers and we’re definitely schooling.”
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The area’s top up-and-coming skiers and riders opened the 2022 USA Snowboard and Freeski Association North Tahoe Series, dusting off their best tricks during a round of rail jam at Homewood Mountain Resort.