Alpine dynasty? North Tahoe opens state title defense Tuesday at Sierra-at-Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Alpine dynasty? North Tahoe opens state title defense Tuesday at Sierra-at-Tahoe

North Tahoe’s Maddie Roberts won a pair of races this season. Roberts and the Lady Lakers will look to defend last year’s sweep of the state slalom and giant slalom events.

Skiers from North Tahoe and Truckee have put on a dominant display during the 2018-19 season, landing dozens of racers on the podium during the year's seven events en route to qualifying athletes and teams to next week's Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Tahoe Basin League Alpine State Championships.

The North Tahoe boys were unbeatable this year as a team with first-place finishes in each race on the season; while on the girls' side, the Lady Lakers won five races and Truckee won the other two.

"North Tahoe dominated the entire the season," said Assistant Coach Gretchen Sproehnle. "The boys' team remained undefeated in all seven races, and the girls won five races and placed second in two races."

Since the league uses the top five results during the season to determine a league champion, the Lakers boys and girls finished the year with the maximum number of team points possible. The Tahoe Basin Ski League also combines boys and girls' scores during each event for an overall winner, and Lakers combined to go unbeaten on the year as a team.

Individually, the girls from North Tahoe captured first place in every race except the season opener, which was won by Truckee's Monique Fellows. The Lakers' Aliza Neu and Maddie Roberts each raced to a pair of wins on the season. North Tahoe's Eva Turk and Kacey Benjaminson won the other two races this year.

Neu, a junior, will enter next week's state championship races as the defending giant slalom and combined state champion. As a team, the North Tahoe girls are the two-time defending combined state championship. The girls have also joined to win the past two team state titles in giant slalom.

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This season, the North Tahoe boys didn't find the same individual success as the girls, but still flooded the top 10 with skiers on a regular basis to take team wins in each event. The boys' undefeated campaign marks the second consecutive season the Lakers have gone unbeaten in alpine racing as a team.

North Tahoe's Max Kelly led the team with wins in each of the three races to open the season. From there, Whittell's Gunnar Barnwell entered the fray and picked up wins in three of the four races to close the year. South Tahoe's Luke Allen also picked up a win this season.

As a team, the North Tahoe boys are the three-time defending state champions in giant slalom and two-time defending state champions in slalom. North Tahoe has also won the past two state titles in combined.

"We're really looking forward to another strong showing at state championships," said Sproehnle in an email to the Sun. "Unfortunately, some of our top racers will be racing out of state at some regional competitions. We are really excited for them to continue at a higher level. However, with the incredible depth and talent on our team, I'm expecting North Tahoe to be a top contender for both the boys and girls' teams."

Notably, North Tahoe will be without two of their fastest girls, Jillian Ferre and Maya Wong, due to the skiers not being able to participate in the minimum number of races needed to qualify for state. Similarly, the Lakers will also be without one of their best on the boys' side, Guthrie Goss, who recently picked up an International Ski Federation win at Schweitzer, Idaho. Goss took first place and third place in downhill events on Jan. 31, and also skied to a pair of third-place finishes to open February.

This year's state championships will get underway next Tuesday, beginning with slalom racing at Sierra-at-Tahoe. The season will conclude the following day at Kirkwood Mountain Resort with giant slalom.

"We'll be sad to lose our seniors, but the future looks bright for North Tahoe High School ski team," said Sproehnle. "Many of our top point-getters are juniors or younger, and several up-and-coming freshman boys and girls joined the team this year."

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.