Viking skiers three-peat at state
South Tahoe High truly has a dynasty – in skiing.
Earlier this week, the Vikings won their third straight California state championship at Mount Shasta near Redding, Calif.
The Vikings used a strong showing in the final-day giant slalom to wrest the title away from Mount Shasta and Mammoth. South Tahoe was in third place after opening-day slalom competition.
Viking coach Mike Shreve was pleasantly surprised that his Vikings, which featured only three seniors, brought home the most-coveted hardware again.
“I felt that this year we had the talent, but because all of the other leagues are gaining talent, too, it was going to be a mental game,” he said.
With two totally different days of weather, ranging from fog and drizzle the opening day for the GS to clear and a 14 -degree temperature for the slalom, the competitors’ mental attitudes were certainly challenged.
On Monday morning, standing at the top of the mountain, the fog was so thick you half expect to see the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge protrude above the mist. Yet, the 300 athletes sporting bright colored race suits, helmets, boots, and skis all emblazoned with their high school logos brightened up the dreary morning. The three-time Super League champions expected the races to be delayed, but instead got the green light.
Unfortunately, the fog became denser and temperatures plummeted before the second run, forcing organizers to suspend the GS until Tuesday.
Teams broke the tension that night with dinner, dancing and sledding on serving trays.
But competitors arrived an hour earlier the next day to complete the GS and were greeted with temperatures in the teens.
Shreve huddled the girls together at the top of the race course to talk strategy and confidence. At the end of the first race, three had finished in the top 10 and one had caught a tip and lost a ski. This meant in the next race, all three girls now had to finish … if one fell and could not finish all hope was lost for another title. They responded.
The girls came out after lunch and with Launa Giordano and Amelia Edwards leading the way, secured second- and fourth-places, respectively.
But it was the perseverance of Mo Renk that kept the title hopes alive. After falling and sliding down the icy hill past several gates, Renk jumped up and hiked back up to the spot of her fall and continued. She had lost precious seconds but knew she had to finish if there was to be any chance at all.
Like something out of a suspense novel, the Viking boys again repeated almost the exact same scenario. Nick Stoddart finished third and Jonathan McKean seventh. Nick Abelow, like Renk before him, fell and slid even further but rebounded with great second effort to finish. Now only time would tell.
Gathered in the Mount Shasta’s main lodge with the other 30 teams, it was too close to tell if Mount Shasta, Mammoth Mountain or South Tahoe
was the champion.
“I knew that it would be tough to beat us if we are able to stand up. But this race was going to become a numbers game – who lost the least amount of racers to DQs” Shreve said.
After several hours of tabulation that had to take into account penalties, the results came to the podium and the crowd of 200 plus athletes, coaches and parents fell silent.
The race organizers started with the individual medals in the girls GS: Edwards, sixth; Renk, 12th, and Giordano, 15th. Boys giant slalom: McKean, sixth; Abelow, 19th and Thomas Hardy, 20th. Girls slalom: Giordano, second; Edwards, sixth; and Renk, 22nd. Boys slalom: Stoddart, third; McKean, seventh; and Abelow, 33rd. Girls combined: Edwards, fourth; and Giordano, fifth. Boys combined, McKean, fourth.
Then came the teams results … South Tahoe girls, first place; South Tahoe boys, first place; and overall 1998 California state champions for the third year in a row: South Tahoe!
Rounding out South Tahoe’s state contingent were Eric Smothers, Katy Orr and Genn Bettencourt.
It marked the first time during the Vikings’ title reign that they won the boys, girls and combined championships.
A four-peat is a distinct possibility since Shreve will welcome back most of his top guns back next season. But Mammoth should be a major threat since the school will allow Far West skiers to join its team next year.
“I think it will just up the ante. We’ve always edged them because we’ve had depth,” Shreve said.
By beating Mount Shasta, Shreve avenged a loss to Shasta coach Greg Gunkel in the 1969 state championships. Shreve was skiing for the Vikings then and Gunkel was a member of Truckee’s state champs.
The champions’ awards banquet is from 6-8 p.m. March 16 at the Lake Tahoe Golf Course. The cost is $10 per adult and $8 for children. If you plan on attending, contact Shreve at 577-1793 as soon as possible.
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