Team dedication gives Viking coach new opportunities |

Team dedication gives Viking coach new opportunities

Freeskiing opportunities and pizza are two incentives for South Tahoe High’s ski team if they do well today in the Tahoe Basin Ski League opener at Alpine Meadows.

It’s part of the coach’s new philosophy of positive reinforcement. He’s set down a new set of rules, and if the teams stays within the lines, it can lead to extra Viking playtime.

You could say coach Jim Morgan has come full circle: He was hired seven years ago, in part, to pull in the reins of a rowdy ski team. But now the team isn’t so rowdy, and Morgan doesn’t have to be so tough. His new philosophy, he says, is 180 degrees removed from his previous outlook.

Now, the plan is to give the Vikings some breathing room and to let their level of dedication set the training tempo. After all, skiing is fun, and if the team can have fun together, there’s no telling what they can do.

“I have a young team, but they seem to be real dedicated,” Morgan said.

Much of the change has come about due to new faces. The Vikings lost a handful of seniors, including Danny Lear, Morgan’s prize possession. Only Kristin Royce, Julie Froyum and Jeff Boyd return as seniors.

But the aces this year are Marty Harris and P.J. Bacon, both from Heavenly Ski Education Foundation.

Harris recently swept four races in the Western Region Topolino Shootout in Snow King, Wyo., to earn an invitation to a special competition in Italy. The finish cements his position as of the best in the nation for his age.

P.J. Bacon recently finished 13th in a Far West Open slalom at Heavenly Ski Resort among nearly 90 skiers, and promises to be a prize contender this year.

That is, if the two have time.

That’s the biggest problem with ski foundation skiers, they’re always skipping town to attend regional competitions.

That was Morgan’s biggest gripe with Lear, and it’s likely the primary reason Kendall Northrup didn’t come out for the team this year.

That’s neither here nor there, because all high school ski teams in the region struggle with the same conflict.

Adding strength to the line up are Samuel De La Canal of Argentina, Justin Stang, Jacob Hash and Nick Heng.

On the girls’ team, Royce, Grace Harding, Kasey Rise and LeAnna Apland add much-needed spice.

Getting the kids to loosen up, sometimes is the toughest part. Morgan had trouble getting Lear to slow down and not blow out. Most of the skiers in the league were way behind, but Lear would push the limit anyway.

Morgan recalls a race where Lear became airborne, did a 360, and eventually regained control to win.

Loosening his grip on control seemed to work last year, as the team tied with Truckee for runner-up, which Morgan sees as justification.

Morgan has a dedicated group of parents picking up the pieces, which also helps hone his new philosophy. He hopes the results will really shine in the years to come.

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