Skiers off to fast start at MCS and RCS

By Claire Cella
Despite a noticeably late start to winter, ski teams from Margaretville and Roxbury central schools have competed in three Section Four races and are looking forward to a tough and competitive season.

Most recently, the section, which consists of varsity teams from Margaretville, Roxbury, Stamford, Windham, Oneonta and Hunter, competed in a giant slalom race at Plattekill Mountain on January 20.

For the varsity boys, Ian Williams and Caleb Todd, both from Margaretville, placed third and fourth respectively, while Tristan Mulder from Roxbury placed eighth. The Margaretville Varsity Boys’ team came in second overall, with the Windham team claiming first place. The Roxbury Varsity Boys placed fourth. For the varsity girls, the Roxbury team placed second overall, with help from Amy Burrows and Taylor Allison who finished in eighth and ninth places respectively.
In the three races to date, the Margaretville and Roxbury varsity boys’ teams, as well as the Roxbury Varsity Girls’ team have had racers finish in the top 10. Margaretville currently does not have a girls’ team.

The Margaretville team is headed by senior Ian Williams, who has been a member of the varsity squad since eighth grade and has been the Delaware League champion since his freshman year. Five-year Margaretville coach Jim Owdienko said Williams’ strongest event is slalom but he is very accomplished in giant slalom as well.

Following close behind Williams is Caleb Todd, a junior, who Owdienko thinks will have a real chance to compete at the state level this year. Other team members include sophomore Mike Conroy, who ranks within the top 20 racers, and eighth graders Riley Ancona, Dan Conroy, TJ Phillips and Ian Todd, whom Owdienko said all have strong potential as young racers. As a team, the Margaretville boys are ranked second overall, behind a powerful and experienced Windham team that is packed with tremendous talent, said Owdienko.

Looking toward sectional races, Owdienko said he can see his team maintaining their second place position and he is hoping to bring more than half of the team to compete.

The Roxbury boys are led by junior Garret Hinkley who is a consistent top-10 racer, according to six-year coach Jo Hinkley. Sophomore members include Kris Walcutt, Tristan Mulder, Ian O’Brien, and Garrett Peters. Ethan McDaniel is the sole freshman on the team. The team stands third in the section so far.

The Roxbury Varsity Girls team is a young assortment of racers as well, led by sophomores Kaelie VanLoan, Taylor Allison and Erin Hubbell. Amy Burrows, a freshman, and Kendall Walcutt, an eighth grader, round out the team. The team is currently ranked second behind Windham.

Roxbury also has a modified team, with Olivia Allison as the only member of the girls’ team, and Beau O’Donnell, Tyler Boyle, and Kyle Faraci making up the boys’ team.

Hinkley said this year is definitely a building year for the teams, but she is very proud of the results she is seeing from the fledgling racers. She expressed excitement for the upcoming sectional races and is really looking for her racers to medal this year, especially Garret Hinkley.

The upcoming season
There are five more races left in the 2011-2012 season before the sectional races. The next race, which is a double-header of slalom and giant slalom, will be held at Windham Mountain on January 27, starting at 3 p.m.

Sectionals are scheduled at Belleayre Mountain for February 15. Racers will compete in giant slalom on “Dot Nebel” at 10 a.m., followed by slalom on “Yahoo” at 12:30 p.m.
Following sectionals, the NYSPHSAA Boys & Girls Skiing Championship will be on February 27 and 28 at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid.

For the 2011-2012 season, the qualifications for the state championship have changed, making the competition within the sections even more intense. In the past, each section was allowed to bring the top 12 racers, but this year the state changed to a sliding scale, limiting the number of qualifying racers depending on the number of teams competing in that section. Section Four is now allowed to bring only seven racers.

Hinkley said this has raised the stakes for the racers “on the bubble,” or those racers who typically place between fifth and ninth place.

“It’s a very tight field,” she said, “which is great. There’s a lot of heavy competition.”

Both coaches said the competition is already stiff, as every year Windham and Hunter have many talented racers who have the advantages of frequent mountain access as well as prior experience on USSA race teams. Hinkley said this additional experience on race courses and in gates usually stands these racers apart from the rest.

But considering this, the young Roxbury and the Margaretville teams have done remarkably well. The Roxbury teams cannot even practice on snow during the week like other schools in the section and are limited to practices on the weekends at Plattekill.
In spite of how competitive the league has become, both coaches said that the most important thing for the racers is that they have fun, and enjoy themselves and the company of the other racers.

“Margaretville and Roxbury have always been considered as the smaller schools in the section, but we’re both very competitive and very close-knit teams,” Hinkley said. “We all get along great, the racers make lifelong friends, and the experience becomes something they can carry with them as they leave high school.”