Truckee’s Alpine ace
Momentum is on Brandie Macken’s side. And her Truckee High coaches fully expect her to carry it into the NIAA 4A Alpine Championships next week.
“I’d be much surprised if she didn’t win the whole thing,” Paul Smith, co-head coach of the Truckee High Alpine ski team, said of Monday’s slalom and Thursday’s GS finals at Alpine Meadows.
The coach has reason to be confident.
In Macken’s first full season racing in the Tahoe Basin League, the senior steamrolled the competition, winning all six regular-season races. All but one of her wins ” a .62-second margin of victory over teammate Michelle Delumyea in a Jan. 23 slalom ” came with relative ease.
“She won them all without question,” said Pat Mooney, who shares the head coaching position with Smith. “I can’t recall the last time that occurred.”
Mooney and Smith think the last Tahoe Basin League racer to run the table during the regular season was 2006 Olympic gold medalist Julia Mancuso. Both think Mancuso accomplished the feat her freshman season with North Tahoe.
Stacey Cook, a 2002 Truckee High grad and Olympic downhill racer, also dominated in the Tahoe Basin League, the coaches said, but she did not compete in every league race.
So the undefeated Macken is obviously up there with some good company.
“It’s unusual to ski that well,” Smith said. “To win every race is tough for anybody to do, no matter what your ability is.”
Macken, who grew up racing in the highly competitive Far West Skiing program, does not lack ability. In her first year not skiing for Far West, she’s still amazing her Truckee coaches with her smooth yet speedy style.
“She makes skiing look effortless,” Smith said.
“It’s not something you can really teach,” he continued. “She has that natural feel for the snow and how to glide on skis. It’s a soft touch, and it’s near impossible to teach.
Either somebody has it or they don’t.
“What she has learned is not from us.”
Instead, Smith credits Macken’s Far West coaches, her passion for skiing and “years of bashing gates” for her success. And although the Truckee coaches knew Macken was fast ” she competed in a couple high school races last year, Smith said ” neither would have predicted a perfect season.
“We hoped she’d finish in the top five in every race,” Mooney said, “but she has exceeded our expectations.”
Macken has exceeded her own expectations, as well.
“I just did high school racing for fun,” she said. “I didn’t know I’d be winning every single race.”
In doing so, Macken played a large role in Truckee’s first-place finish on the season ” determined by a cumulative point total between each school’s boys and girls teams. Because high school racing is a team sport, Mooney said, it is important that skiers finish each race as opposed to taking an all-or-nothing approach into the gates. Macken understood this concept, and thus refrained from going all-out.
“She never even skied close to her edge,” Smith said, adding that “when she’s pushing it, it’s to beat the boys, not the girls.”
She often did, the coach said.
Although Macken is not yet sure what the future has in store for her, she has narrowed her college options to San Francisco State University ” which would entail giving up competitive ski racing ” or skiing for a college that is willing to give her a scholarship.
So far, Albertson College of Idaho has shown interest, Macken said, and within the next couple months she will have explored all her options and made her decision.
“If I was an athletic director at a university with a ski team, I’d be calling her up,” Mooney said.
Division 4A Alpine Slalom Championship, Alpine Meadows, Feb. 26, 10 a.m.
Division 4A Alpine GS Championship, Alpine Meadows, March 1, 10 a.m.