Senior Aidan Galati stands in the start gate on Feb. 5. She finished in ninth place.

Skiers rejoice as El Niño brings snowy weather; frosh add stellar performances, helpful parents to previously tiny team

Ethan Hockridge
Senior Aidan Galati stands in the start gate on Feb. 5. She finished in ninth place.

(This was previously published in the print edition and thus does not include results after Feb. 12.) 

The ski and snowboard team is currently third in their league as many changes have been made to the team and program, including more members, more support, more training and more snow.

The team was in first place until the recent race on Feb. 4.

They are now 16 points behind Chico High School.

But freshman Ethan Hockridge remains confident.

“We can easily catch up if (freshman Luca Procida) and I place in the top three and (junior Daniel Hernried) places in his normal position,” said Hockridge.

“We just have to have a consistent race.”

The team has doubled in size, with 10 members instead of last year’s five. The larger number has led to a better overall performance.

Procida has placed in the top two in every race. Hernried has placed fifth in every race. Hockridge has placed in the top two in two of the four races.

And in women’s ski and snowboard, a member has consistently placed in the top 10.

Coach Jason Kreps and Hernried both attributed the improved performance partly to the freshmen.

“They’re MVPs,” Hernried said. “(Procida) is really consistent, and (Hockridge) is super aggressive.”

“It’s great that we actually have people that race outside of school and have been doing it all their lives,” Kreps said.

Ethan Hockridge
Freshman Luca Procida races giant slalom on Feb. 5, finishing first.

Procida and Hockridge both race competitively for the Northstar ski team.

Procida has raced there for six years; Hockridge for two.

The two have been racing almost identically, with their times varying between 0.37 and 2.24 seconds on some individual runs.

There are also many new members without racing experience, whose performances have varied from disqualification for missing gates to high finishes.

“It’s hard to know where to go  when I’m racing,” said junior Elizabeth Brownridge, who had never raced before.

“It’s a learning curve,” Kreps said.

The increase in members means that Country Day can now compete as a team instead of individually. (To have a ski or snowboard team, a school must have three or more members in a division.)

This year there are four men’s skiers, so there will be a team in that category.

But Kreps said that he will send the top three skiers as a team to the state competition.

At this point, Procida, Hockridge and Hernried are the top three.

Hernried has raced on the school team in the past, and even after a hip injury last year, has placed fifth in every race.

Kreps has also said he will send some of the best racers in the other divisions as individuals to states.

Even though the team is experienced, it will still be hard for the Cavs to win, according to Kreps.

Scoring relies on the placing of racers, so a team with four or more members has a better chance. If a racer is disqualified or has a bad run, the team still has more members who can receive points.

“We have to have three really solid racers to win,” Kreps said.

Hockridge believes their hardest competition is Davis High School.

“They have a really big team that is really good,” he said.

Weather has also been a big factor in the team’s success.

“No complaints about the weather this year,” Kreps said. (The Tahoe region has already surpassed last year’s snowfall levels by 307 percent.)

Hockridge said the quality of the snow is also better this year.

“Last year the snow was super wet,” he said. “This year it’s a lot harder and drier, providing faster runs.”

But the weather hasn’t always been perfect for the Cavs.

At the Jan. 22 race at Northstar, rain was predicted, although snow began to fall as the racers arrived at the mountain.

And the Jan. 29 race at Boreal was cancelled because of strong wind, rain and snow predictions.

The training of the ski and snowboard team has also changed.

Hockridge’s mother, Carol, has taken over dry-land training responsibilities from Kreps.

She leads a program of Pilates, yoga, stretching and core strength two or three times per week.

“This year we are more fit,” said Hernried.

However, only about half of the ski and snowboard team participates in the new dry-land program.

Several team members either don’t want to participate or are participating in an alternate sport.

On the other hand, regular students have joined to get fit or for physical-education credit.

Five to six members also got traditional training on the slopes in December from Hockridge’s father, Mark, who used to be a ski instructor.

Senior Amelia Fineberg noted that the parent support has also increased.

“It’s really nice having parents showing up and cheering for us,” she said. “In previous years it was only (Kreps).”

And team members no longer have to worry about rides or places to stay, as many of the parents are willing to shuttle students back and forth from Tahoe.

“They also provide us with snacks!” Fineberg said.

—By Jack Christian

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