Benge earns silver in HS alpine state tourney; Funston, Jordan are TBSL MVPs | SierraSun.com

Benge earns silver in HS alpine state tourney; Funston, Jordan are TBSL MVPs

Matt Brown, Sierra Sun

Truckee’s Josh Benge was one victory away from winning a high school alpine state title when fatigue got the best of him.

“After the first run, Josh was ahead,” said Truckee High School alpine ski team head coach Pat Mooney. “But on the second run he had a little trouble about three-quarters down the hill. His edge started sliding out from him. He was pretty pooped by that time.”

In a twist of bad luck earlier in the day, Benge was forced to make an extra run after the starting gates didn’t open properly. Add that to an already daunting day of skiing, and Benge’s energy tank had run empty one race too soon. When the skiing had concluded, Benge fell a quarter-course short of the state championship to Dan Mandeville of Incline.

Tuesday’s alpine skiing high school state championship event was held at Alpine Meadows. In an exciting format, 96 racers (the top eight boys and girls from each school) representing six schools begin the day in hopes of qualifying for the top 16 among their particular gender. Each racer gets one run each on a Giant Slalom course that decides the top 16 boys and girls.

The 16 racers then square off in a tournament bracket that decides the overall champion. Each bracket winner is decided based on two runs against each other.

“By the end of the day, the champion and runner-up will have taken almost 10 runs,” Mooney said. “It’s grueling, but it’s fun to watch.”

With the additional run due to the gate malfunction, Benge could not outlast Mandeville on the final duel of the day. Mooney said Benge’s style is not necessarily fluid, but he tends to get the job done on the slopes.

“That how he wins. He’s the terminator,” Mooney said.

The other top 16 qualifier for the Truckee boys was Danny Kruck, who was eliminated in the first round.

Truckee skier Sean Jordan was honored as the boys’ Tahoe Basin Ski League MVP later in the day. The MVP is awarded to the individual season points leader.

For the girls, Olivia Rassuchine, Paola Teran, Miranda Funston and Whitney Lewis of Truckee made up one-quarter of the girls’ championship bracket. By chance, none of the Truckee girls had to face off against one another in the first round (No. 1 faces No. 16, No. 2 faces No. 15, and so on).

Funston, who later in the day was named the girls’ TBSL MVP in an awards ceremony, also had some technical trouble, like Benge, that hurt her hopes of winning a state title.

“She had a good chance of winning the championship, but she fell in the second round and couldn’t recover,” Mooney said.

Funston was the top Truckee girls’ performer on the day, as Rassuchine, Teran and Lewis were all eliminated in the first round of the championship bracket. In all, six Truckee skiers qualified for the tournament.

“We had more kids qualify this year than last year,” Mooney said.

North Tahoe’s Ashley Smallman was the eventual girls’ state champion, celebrating her individual honor with her teammates, who took home the TBSL team title, with South Tahoe finishing second.

Truckee finished the season in third place, a good finish for a team that did not always have its top skiers at each event. When reflecting on 2003-2004, Mooney said that this team was special in more important ways than winning.

“I had a great team this year,” he said. “They’re nice, cooperative, helpful, and they support each other. As coaches, we never had to ask them to help (set up courses). I’ve never coached a team that was so good in that respect.”