WILLAMETTE PASS — All the Hood River Valley ski teams needed at last weekend’s state races was the ability to finish races.
As first-year head coach Jessica Gunesch said coming in, “everything else would take care of itself.”
The Eagle boys found that philosophy to be true, finishing second in the team Giant Slalom standings and sixth in the Slalom for a fourth-place overall finish. Not bad, considering that the team didn’t even qualify for state in 2002.
Meanwhile, the girls had just three returning members from their 2002 state championship team, and paid the price of inexperience, taking ninth in the GS and 11th in the Slalom for an 11th place overall finish.
“The girls had a rough go of things,” Gunesch said. “There were a few unexpected falls and some illness that affected our performance. I know that was pretty upsetting for Candice (Hoag), being the team’s only returning senior.”
Hoag represented the Eagle girls’ only top 15 finish, settling for 15th overall after a crash in the GS. Sophomore Shanna Cochran, also a member of the 2002 title team, took 23rd overall, while freshman No. 3 Jessica McMorran did not post a finish after falling in both events.
“We need all three of our top girls to finish if we’re going to have success,” Gunesch said. “Unfortunately, that’s not how things went.”
Also competing for the girls were sophomore Aileen Herlitz and senior Lindsay Heppe, but neither posted a combined finish.
The boys’ state experience was a much different one, however. After starting out shaky in Thursday’s Slalom and posting just four finishes, the Eagles took flight in Friday’s GS competition and skated their way into second place — just ahead of league rival Sandy and just behind Lincoln.
“The guys did great,” Gunesch said. “They were a little unhappy with their performance in the Slalom, and really stepped it up in the GS. It seemed like everything went right on the second day.”
Leading the way for the Eagle boys was senior Justin Wiley, who posted an eighth-place finish in the GS and an 12th place in the Slalom to claim eighth place overall. Freshman Fletcher Hukari was next in line, finishing 24th overall with a 32nd place in the Slalom and a 39th place in the GS.
Junior Tyler Nelson and sophomore Alec Asbridge were the other two Eagle boys team members to post combined finishes. Nelson took 11th in GS and 79th in Slalom for 45th overall, while Asbridge took 29th in GS and 92nd in Slalom for 55th place overall.
“Justin really held it together for the team,” Gunesch said. “It was also good to see Luke (Pennington) make a comeback in the GS. It took the whole team to help us get into second place.”
Pennington fell in the Slalom, but bounced back to take 34th in the GS. Junior Kyle Griffith also fell in the Slalom, but came back to take 108th in the GS. Finally, freshman Tony Guisto placed 70th in the Slalom.