Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa’s win in girls’ Alpine at the New York State High School Skiing Championships last week would make a great movie.
Why not? They make movies about baseball teams, football teams and cheerleaders, don’t they? Usually, it’s about a team coming out of nowhere to win a big championship.
The squad qualifies in that respect because there wasn’t even a Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa ski team last season. Ballston Spa had no team at all, and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake had a self-funded team that was dwindling in numbers.
A combined 2011 team was formed when Ballston Spa parent Cheryl Feder convinced her school to allow a merger with Burnt Hills/-Ballston Lake. She had three daughters with USSA racing experience, and she knew there were other good skiers in the district, as well.
When the season began, Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa was an untested entity in Section II skiing.
At the first meet, the Queensbury Invitational, the host team was leading until the ast skier stepped into the gate. That was Ballston Spa sophomore Demi Feder (Cheryl’s daughter). She fired down the course and finished second, giving her team a one-point victory.
Feder’s teammate, Ballston Spa junior Taylor Manderson, finished eighth in the race. Her sister, Kylie, a freshman, was 11th and senior Morgan Feder, Demi’s sister, was 14th, giving their team the single-point win. Not scoring in the opener was Rebecca Stodgell, a Ballston Spa junior who would be a big player in meets to come.
That first meet set the tone for the rest of the season. With five skiers with top-10 potential, BH/BS was suddenly the team to beat in invitationals and, later, in the Section II championships. And, hmm, was it too soon to start thinking about the state meet at Lake Placid?
The girls took turns scoring for the team along the way. In the second meet, the Schuylerville Invitational, BH/BS swept the first three places, with Demi Feder, Taylor Manderson and Morgan Feder finishing in that order. Kylie Manderson was 14th to seal that win.
The team went on to win every invitational except one. Saratoga Springs scored a 10-point victory over the Spartans in the Ahearn Memorial meet at Royal Mountain. Demi Feder wound up winning four of the eight invitational races during the regular season.
BH/BS won the Section II meet by a 30-point margin over runner-up Saratoga Springs, with Demi Feder first in both slalom and giant slalom. Her sister had an off day, failing to finish the giant slalom and placing 19th in slalom.
That’s when the team’s depth kicked in.
Stodgell skied to third in slalom and 11th in giant slalom, Taylor Manderson was fifth in slalom and sixth in giant slalom and Kylie Manderson scored the points needed to win by landing 12th in slalom and 21st in giant slalom.
The team was headed to states, but there was some disappointment. Only four skiers on winning sectional teams can compete in the championship meet. Demi and Morgan Feder had pre-qualified, and that meant Kylie Manderson wouldn’t be going to Whiteface Mountain with her sister, the Feders and Stodgell.
The state meet would be the team’s biggest challenge, and it turned out to be an adventure. BH/BS was going up against defending state champ Pittsford Mendon (Section V), an experienced squad coming to the meet with two members of last year’s winning team. They were Cat Gorman, third in slalom and sixth in giant slalom in 2010, and Sarah Plain, who was fourth in giant slalom.
Morgan Feder said winning at states was always in the back of their minds, but when they got to Whiteface Mountain, the possibility really sunk in.
“That’s when it hit us that we had a chance,” she said.
The two teams had never met in the regular season, but it turned out they were evenly matched. If everyone stood up, it would come down to which team had the fastest runs.
But not everyone stood up, and that’s what made the state meet so interesting.
In the first-day slalom, BH/BS had problems getting three to finish.
Things were looking great for the Section II champs at the end of the first run, with Demi Feder second, Stodgell fifth, Manderson 10th and Morgan Feder 14th. But Morgan was disqualified for
stradling a gate and not allowed to ski the second run.
Pittsford Mendon, meanwhile, had Gorman sitting second, Gabby Slavny 12th, Elizabeth Sauer 20th and Plain 61st.
On the second run, Demi Feder finished second again (second overall), Taylor Manderson was 10th again (eighth overall), but Stodgell broke her nose hitting a gate and didn’t finish.
For Pittsford Mendon, Gorman wound up third, Slavy was 16th, Sauer was 18th and Plain was 48th.
At the end of day one, Pittsford Mendon was first, Warwick of Section IX was second and Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa was third.
On the first run of the giant slalom, Demi Feder, second to start, had bad visibility and wound up 28th. That’s when her teammates really stepped up. Morgan Feder placed 10th, Stodgell 12th and Manderson 15th.
But Pittsford Mendon was looking really good, with Gorman and Plain tied for third and Sauer 39th. Slavny was a DNF, and that’s when things started to go the Spartans’ way. It all would come down to the second run of the giant slalom.
Morgan Feder was eighth in run two to place eighth in the race, and Stodgell was 11th to place 10th. That put pressure on Mendon’s two best skiers, who were still to come.
Gorman had a good run (she was third in the race), and it appeared that Pittsford Mendon had the team title in the bag. But Plain, next out of the gate, lost a ski four gates from the end and didn’t finish, leaving the door wide open for BH/BS.
“Coaches at the top told us we had a chance to win if we all just skied solid,” Manderson said after the race.
And ski solid they did. She was 17th and placed 16th in the race, while Feder had a good second run (ninth) and wound up 19th.
The drama didn’t end there, however.
The Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa girls went to the awards ceremony, thinking they had won the championship, but a mistake made when the scores were totalled put Pittsford Mendon first, one point ahead of them.
“We were pretty sure we had won, so it was a shock when they said we didn’t,” Demi Feder said. “We were pretty upset that after all the difficult problems we had that we weren’t able to come out with a win.”
Acting BH/BS coach Todd Manderson (Taylor’s father) wasn’t buying it. On the bus ride home, he and Saratoga Springs coach Scott Singer went over the results and discovered that Pittsford Mendon had been awarded 10 points too many in the giant slalom column. When the points were added up again, Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa was first with 122, Warwick was second with 117 and Pittsford Mendon was third with 113.
Coach Manderson then called Whiteface to confirm those findings, and the team rode the rest of the way home feeling like the state champs they were.
Until next season
This is the last Ski Tales of the 2011 season.
Stay in shape so you can enjoy the 2012 season as much as this one. Remember that during the off season, you can save money by purchasing discounted season passes at many ski areas.
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