Lakers sweep individual, team gold at giant slalom state championships
The North Tahoe alpine team was golden at Kirkwood Mountain Resort on Tuesday, sweeping the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association individual and team giant slalom state championships.
Lakers junior Aliza Neu fought off crosswinds and blowing snow to defend her giant slalom crown from a year ago, while on the boys’ side, North Tahoe freshman Toby Gajar earned his first high school alpine win, and in doing so, took this year’s giant slalom state championship.
“I’m so proud of the kids. They really came together as a team and showed incredible depth,” said Coach Gretchen Sproehnle.
“Aside from really performing well, they have always had fun. They came out and had a good time, and kept it light and fun. That’s really what it’s all about … I’m proud of every single one of these kids.”
For the second straight day of state championship racing, conditions on the mountain made for a tough morning for the area’s top alpine skiers. Instead of yesterday’s slalom courses that became rutted out by morning’s end at Sierra-at-Tahoe, skiers had to contend with snowfall, crosswinds, and soft snow on the courses at Kirkwood.
“That’s just ski racing though. It’s a part of the sport,” said Sproehnle. “You can’t have perfect conditions and perfect courses every single time. Everybody’s strengths come out in different types of courses and conditions, so again, it just shows (North Tahoe’s) versatility.”
Incline’s Brenna Ritchie navigated the conditions better than any skier to open the morning’s competition. Ritchie posted the fastest first run to begin the morning, crossing the finish line with a time of 37.47 seconds.
North Tahoe’s Neu, who finished with the second fastest first run at 37.82, obliterated the course in her second run, finishing more than a second faster than any other skier to defend last year’s giant slalom state championship.
“It’s the last race of the season. I got excited and wanted to win,” said Neu. “I actually didn’t know what place I was in up top. I was just like, ‘I’ll ski as hard as I can, and hope for the best.’”
As a team, the North Tahoe girls won the slalom, giant slalom, and combined state championships this year. The Lady Lakers have now won the past three giant slalom and combined sate championships. The girls have won the past two slalom state titles. The North Tahoe girls were also this year’s academic champions, finishing with a 3.82 GPA.
Gajar’s first high school victory results in giant slalom state championship
In boys’ racing, a North Tahoe freshman picked a good day to notch his first high school alpine victory.
The Lakers’ Toby Gajar posted the second fastest time of the morning during the first runs, finishing just behind teammate Trent Carter.
A timing malfunction during Gajar’s second run nullified what would have been a solid result, and sent the freshman skier back to the top of the mountain in an attempt to knock off Carter, who sat in first place after finishing his second run.
After several other skiers made their way down the course, Gajar again got his opportunity.
“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s just do it again. Now I know the course, might as well just ski faster’” said Gajar, who went on to post the fastest second-run time of any skier to capture the giant slalom state title. Gajar finished 0.10 ahead of Carter to take the win.
As a team, the North Tahoe boys captured first place, marking the fourth consecutive year the Lakers have won giant slalom. North Tahoe also won combined for the third consecutive year, and won slalom for a third straight year.
“I’d like to acknowledge our seniors. We’re really going to miss them next year,” said Sproehnle on this year’s team. “And then we have some great up-and-coming freshmen and sophomores too. We’re looking forward to continued excellence.”