The Section II ski competition season is ready to go with the Alpine racers in the gates at Royal Mountain Friday, and the Nordic competitors at Queensbury Saturday for a mass-start skate relay.
It should be an interesting season, with strong returnees in both disciplines faced by young challengers who have already made their mark in age-group races.
On the Alpine side, Queensbury’s Hunter Montgomery won the New York State championship in both the slalom and the giant slalom last year, but he goes into his senior season with some back issues lingering from football play in the fall. He will be challenged by a strong group from CBA, led by senior Evan Toman, who finished just behind Montgomery in the sectional slalom championships last year, and Shenendehowa transfer Matt Gregory.
Others expected to be in the hunt are Tyler Munter, who won the sectional giant slalom title last winter and is back for his junior season racing for Saratoga along with classmate Matt Moechel. Shen sophomore Braden Kruk, coming out of the race program at Willard Mountain, has also caught the attention of coaches, along with Johnstown eighth grader Shawn Cotter.
On the girls’ side, the favorite will be Schuylerville senior Hannah Klingebiel, the defending sectional champion in both slalom and giant slalom who last winter went on to top-three finishes in both events at the state championships. A pair of juniors, Claire Felton from Ballston Spa and Emily Fleming from Johnstown, are expected to contend along with freshmen Meredith Montgomery, Hunter’s sister, from Queensbury and Mikaela Leonard from Shen. New to the scene, but showing promise, is Shen eighth grader Allison Bach, who has been training at Bromley in Vermont.
The team competition seems wide open with CBA, Shen, Saratoga, Queensbury and Johnstown high on the early-season list of contenders.
Nordic racers alternate seasons between skate and classic style racing. This is a skate season.
The strong favorite in the girls’ competition is Mayfield junior Madison Relyea, who finished second, just five seconds off the pace in the state championships last year. She won the first sectional competition of this season by more than 30 seconds. With Fianna Halloran, an impressive freshman, Mayfield is the one to beat for team honors this winter, a long journey for a small enrollment school that a few years ago almost gave up competing in the sport before alumnus and former top competitor Ryan Bornt came on board to coach.
Sophomore Katrin Schreiner, who competes for Hadley-Luzerne, coached by her father, former biathlon Olympian Kurt Schreiner, should be among the top finishers for the girls. Queensbury’s Katie Culliton and Lorriana Guay, along with Sheridan Millington and Avery Bayse from Johnsburg, are also expected to contend.
For the boys, Lake George senior Paul Lindsey, Queensbury junior Lucas Jenkin, and Glens Falls senior Sam Bordeau should challenge each other regularly this winter. All were all top-15 finishers in the state championships last February. Eighth grader Ben Jenkin, Lucas’ brother, is an up-and-coming competitor.
The Nordic schedule starts out the New Year on Jan. 3 with the Saratoga/Shen Invitational at Brookhaven Golf Course. The alpine racers start the New Year at West Mountain with the Niskayuna Invitational on Jan. 8.
The sectional championships are Feb. 11 at West Mountain for the alpine racers, and Feb. 12 for the Nordic competitors at the North Creek Ski Bowl. The state championships in both will be Feb. 24-25 at Bristol Mountain near Rochester.
TIME TO LEARN
With the holidays over and three months of winter ahead, January is a great time for never-evers to begin learning the lifetime sport of skiing. Just about every ski area has a program for beginners but two places that specialize in teaching newbies are Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam and Willard Mountain in Greenwich. Both are small areas that offer newcomers the chance to learn the sport without the big mountain intimidation factor. Maple (www.mapleskiridge.com) and Willard (www.willardmountain.com) offer a variety of programs starting just after the New Year.
Can’t make a regular commitment? Check out the Free For Kids Passport program for third and fourth graders, sponsored by SKI/NY (www.iskiny.com).
VERTICAL CHALLENGE IS BACK
The always popular Vertical Challenge is back with its menu of fun individual and family on-hill events with prizes in this competition that is free to all with a lift ticket. Formerly known as The Dew Tour, the first event of the season is Jan. 4 at Windham Mountain. Later in the month, the tour will be at Whiteface Jan. 18-19. For later season places and dates, check www.ski-vc.com.
TAKE YOUR KIDS TO GORE WEEK
Mark you calendars for Jan. 21-26. It is the annual Take Your Kids to Gore Week where children 19 and under ski for free with an adult who buys a lift ticket. Gore is also still on board with its popular Why Not Wednesdays promotion. A day lift ticket is just $52 Wednesdays for anyone who brings a Dasani water bottle.
Best New Year wishes to all.
Reach Phil Johnson at [email protected].