On 2/21/16 Catamount IC racers, minus 7 and under boys and girls, traveled to Otis Ridge to compete in the season’s only SL race. In the absence of our “rippers,” 61 Catamount racers (30 boys and 31 girls) charged out of the start gate. Our racer’s start mechanics noticeably demonstrated improvement having spent time with coaches drilling and refining this aspect of their game. As normally is the case, Otis SL presented technical and tactical challenges for competitors. A total of 58 competitors experienced hurdles (DSQs and DNFs). Although not a surprise, eighteen faults were experienced by 8 year olds. Overall, however, Catamount 8s fared better than their age group competitors. Faults appear to be distributed evenly between girls and boys.
Well in spite of a topsie-turvey day, Catamount racers secured a respectable number of trips to the podium. Nine top 5 finishes were achieved by our girls (30 % of our total girls). Of the combined 20 top 5 slots for the day, eleven boys accomplished the climb up the podium (37 % of boys total). Close to 60% (36 total), completed the 2 runs with times that earned top 10 rankings. Girls edged out boys with 19. Boys fell short of this number by two. Racers definitely had to be in the zone to reach this pinnacle.
For the second race in a row, timing issues did not did not surface. We can extend a thank you to Catamount’s “timing team,” Lindsy, Adam and Steve, who were recruited by Otis to assure the process ran smoothly.
Coming off a respectable outing at Otis, our IC team headed to Bousquet with U7s in tow; or should we say the U7s headed to Bousquet with the balance of the team in tow. The last race of the season typically draws fewer racers and families. At both the Otis and Bousquet venues our numbers were considerably fewer than our season high of 100 registered at Catamount’s home race. Thirty nine boys and 36 girls were challenged with Bousquet’s diverse course. However, with softer surface conditions, our racers negotiated the pitch with comfort and finesse.
Catamount racers, as they have throughout the season, demonstrated their prowess by capturing a substantial number of top 5 finishes. Our girls secured 12 top fives, or 33% of their total participants. Whereas 15 boys, or 38% of total earned a berth on the podium. Stretching results out to top 10 finishes, 21 of our girls, or 58% of total, achieved this honor. Catamount boys etched thier mark in the snow with 25 top 10 finishes, or 66% of total. Our boys earned bragging rights by out racing fellow competitors to Number 1 rankings in six of the seven divisions.
Coming into the Bousquet race, our U7 boys podium streak was on the line. By the end of the day, however, the sweep was still alive. Our 7 year old boys walked up to the podium with their fourth consecutive, and unprecedented, top 5 sweep. A superb culmination and exclamation mark to a rewarding and safe race season.
Thanks to dedicated mentoring from coaches, an operations crew that faced weekly challenges to provide us with skiable terrain, along with up-beat attitudes from our racers, Catamount IC completed another successful race season. Thanks also to our parents and everyone who persevered to over come the unusual winter conditions. We are more accustomed to driving to-and-from race venues in winter storms not on rain soaked road surfaces. Bravo!
Addendum: Answering the Call, AKA A Hero’s Journey
Starting out on a journey to become a ski racer begins by answering a “Call”.” The invitation to adventure comes in many forms: encouragement from a parent or significant relative, desire to follow in the footsteps of an elder sibling, or aspirations to become the next Bodie, Sarah, Ted, Lindsay, etc. The candidate might be hesitant at first to answer, but once the bug is caught, he/she crosses a threshold where a return to the ho hum life without ski racing no longer seems quite as appealing.
Once the candidate begins the journey she/he is confronted with many trials and challenges. The aspiring racer soon learns that comfort associated with the “wedge” will only impede and not advance progress. New skills must be learned; tipping and rolling ankles and knees, hands/elbows up and forward, parallel stance (what’s that), pressure and edge the outside ski, engage the inside one to compliment the outside (what do you mean by that) shoulders square and looking ahead to the next turn ( well I’d rather look down at my ski tips if you don’t mind).
As did Luke Sky walker, the aspiring racer will enter a “dark cave” and face many challenges, obstacles and tricksters, such as course setters who set goofy courses. He/she will soon learn that the bunny hill is off limits except for one-ski training. Although groomed slopes will be skied from time-to-time, the racer will more often be exposed to clumps of mixed glop, and yes “Ice.” While in the cave the racer will be introduced to GS and SL courses not necessarily to their liking, and did I say “Ice” at every gate. Coaches will make certain that the racer is especially exposed to less than ideal conditions at the first 2 gates over the pitch of the Catamount slope. The racer will consistently be presented the difference between early and late so that their understanding will assist them in arriving early for every appointment for the rest of their life. While battling monsters in the cave, the candidate may be tempted to cross further to the dark side and enter the “park zone” or consider joining forces with the “shredders.” He/she will be dissuading from such temptations.
At first the discovered progression and evolution may seem a bit intimidating and counter intuitive to the aspiring racer’s way of thinking. We understand and will help them assimilate and sort out the barrage of new information, and temper concerns. They will form alliances with mentors, namely coaches, and allies (buddies) who will share in negotiating the peaks and valleys of the journey.
Candidates will methodically work their way out of the cave. The “Hero’s Journey” is a special calling and those who are willing to “take up the sword” and persist in the ordeal will be transformed into a confident adventurer (alpine ski racer). The rewards are many. Improved technical skills along with an enhanced understanding of how to apply them tactically to their advantage in a race course will serve them well in competition; especially at the infamous Otis SL. Each aspiring ski racer will forge their own trail. Some will continue to take their development to the college level. All participants will however have discovered life-long appreciation of the Tao of Skiing. The process will certainly be repeated in many adventures yet to be experienced.