A late start to the ski season hasn’t slowed down the Elmira District Secondary School’s alpine ski team, as one athlete brought home a silver medal from their first meet last week.
Coaches David VandenBerg and Chris Finnie are optimistic about the rest of their season.
“We’ve had a good start. The weather hasn’t been great. Our first practice had to be moved because of the lack of snow. But besides that we’ve had a good year. Our numbers are up. We’re always a small team but we’re up to eight from six last year, so that’s good,” VandenBerg said.
They went to a mini meet at Alpine on Jan. 15 and competed in the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletics Association meet on Feb. 12 at Beaver Valley. They head to the Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association meet on Feb. 18 in Beaver Valley.
If they do well enough there they’ll go to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association meet in Blue Mountain on Feb. 29.
“Just last Friday we had our best showing in quite some time. Irian Fast-Sittler placed second in WCSSAA, so brought a silver medal back. So that was good. She did quite well,” VandenBerg said.
Thursday’s meet will be their final competition of the season, unless someone makes it to OFSAA, which Fast-Sittler could do.
“It’s been a while, at least five years since a team has gone, or anyone’s gone to OFSAA. That would be pretty exciting,” VandenBerg said.
Top individuals and top teams go to OFSAA. But if an individual is part of a team that already qualified as a team, then the second-place individual gets to go as well. So if it were the same results at CWOSSA as there were at WCSSAA then she’d have a chance to go as the second-place individual.The team came together in November and started doing some dry land training. The real training on the ski hills didn’t start until January. They had two practices before the mini-meet and WCSSAA.
The majority of the team is new, with just three returning from last year.
“Markus is another one who did really well at the mini-meet. He had the second fastest time at that meet, but he wasn’t able to be at WCSSAA. We don’t know how he’ll do but I’m optimistic for him as well at CWOSSA next week,” VandenBerg said.
Emily Yeung, one of the new skiers to the team, explained what the first race was like for her.
“It was really terrifying going up to the gate, and then once you realize how easy it is, once you get into the rhythm it’s really easy. It’s just the thing is going fast and cutting corners, once enough people have gone over though it gets really icy on the snow, so you kind of lose an edge going over the second time,” Yeung said.
As for how she felt when it was over?
“I finished and then I fell over, so not great,” Yeung says with a laugh. “But you feel like a real badass sledding in.”
It can be a challenging sport for newbies because all of the students race in the same category, rather than being divided into junior and senior, says VandenBerg.
But often there’s a sense of accomplishment once they’ve finished. Typically the first time down they’re just happy to be able to go down without falling, and then after that they work to improve their times, he says.
“For most of them it’s the first time they even see a race course. So that can be a bit intimidating … but it’s also a great opportunity for them to learn how to ski and control their skiing. I’ve seen growth over the years in students in improvement in their race times for sure,” VandenBerg said.