Skill and will combine for state title

MT. HOOD MEADOWS — Every skier knows that winning a race has everything to do with the start.

In a sport where every second is critical, the slightest pause or slip at the start gate could mean the difference between gold and silver.

At a race like state, just as important is a team’s start. And after building a 24-second lead on day one of the OISRA State Skiing Championships, the HRV girls made sure to finish what they started, winning the combined state title by a whopping 46 seconds.

“We’ve been waiting for this since our freshman year,” said junior Jodie Gates, who finished seventh overall. “We worked so hard all year and I think our experience really paid off.”

HRV, which won the state giant slalom title last year, earned the school’s first combined state title since 1996. Winning the slalom by 21.85 seconds and the GS by 24.2 seconds also gave the Eagles their largest margin of victory since 1990.

Adding to the domination, Lindsay McClure won the individual combined title to give HRV its first state combined champ since Maggie Cantrell in 1992.

McClure, Gates and Candice Hoag have been the core of the HRV ski team since 1999, and after a disappointing second-place league finish during the regular season, they appeared to be on a mission.

By taking three of the top 10 places in the slalom, GS and combined standings, the Eagles proved to the rest of the state what many observers believed all along — that they were far and away the best team in all the land.

“After the past few tumultuous weeks, I wasn’t sure if we were going to pull it off,” said Hoag, who finished eighth overall.

“But we managed to come together at the right time and do everything we talked about all season. This is definitely the highlight of my high-school career,” she said.

Sophomore Lauren Emmerson and freshman Aileen Herlitz also blazed to impressive finishes in their first state races, taking 27th and 68th places, respectively, in the field of 110 racers.

“Lauren improved with every race and gained a lot of confidence as the season progressed,” Gates said. “And Aileen just stuck with it all year. She’s fearless.”

That said, the team appears to be even more dominant in 2003, because it will return all five state competitors.

Emmerson and Herlitz won’t have a chance to relax, though, as Shanna Cochran and Lisa Tedford try to come back from midseason injuries.

Besides trying to defend the girls combined title, HRV’s goal next season will be to win the boys and girls combined title. In a year wrought with misfortune, the Eagle boys did not qualify as a team this season.

However, with top-25 state finishers Luke Pennington and Justin Wiley returning next year, the future looks bright.

Pennington skied extremely well at state, taking 20th in the GS and 25th in the slalom for a 16th place combined finish. Wiley took home a sixth place medal in the giant slalom, but stumbled in the slalom (47th) to finish 21st overall.

Senior Marc Reed also competed at state, but did not record a place in the combined standings due to a fall in the GS. He was able to rebound in the slalom, however, and finished 21st.

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