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Falcons soar to division repeat

Colfax claims second straight combined Central II crown
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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TAHOE CITY — Minutes after finishing their races Monday morning, a large group of girls from Placer High’s snowboard team gathered at the bottom of the slalom course at Alpine Meadows. The Hillgals cheered on all the boys, not just their Placer counterparts. Arms upraised, they formed a human tunnel for riders from all seven high schools competing in the last of six Central Division II events to pass through after they crossed the finish line. Placer standout Caty O’Connor offered a congratulatory pat on the backside to every athlete. The mood was jovial as several teams used the finale to qualify more riders for next month’s state championships and one school celebrated its second straight division crown. After ending an eight-year drought last winter, Colfax wrapped up defense of its title on Monday. Thanks to another flurry of Falcons finishing in the top-10 of both the girls and boys races, Colfax finished with a combined season total of 3,020 points, topping North Tahoe (2,861) and Placer (2,596). “It’s just substantial,” veteran coach Jack Morgan said. “The division title affects more people. It affects everybody on our team, so that’s very neat for everybody. I’m really excited about our chances at state. Everybody dreams of having insurance there, because they only take the top three finishers. If you only take three to state and somebody has a bad day, it’s tough to prevail.” That’s the situation the Falcons faced a year ago, when Placer saved its best performance for last and won the overall state title at Mammoth Mountain. Colfax qualified a school-record 13 snowboarders to the state championships this season, including a whopping eight boys. “We’re all pretty pumped on that,” said senior Danny Kern, who cruised to another victory Monday. “This is by far the biggest group I’ve gone with and I think we have the best chance we’ve ever had for winning states. I didn’t do well last year and a few of our girls slipped up so we didn’t end up doing too well. The pressure is there because this is my last year and in four years I’ve never gotten a medal at states.” The senior may have his best shot yet next month at Mount Shasta. Kern has won three races this season, including two giant slaloms, and placed second in the other three. He viewed the finale as a state tune-up, and finished two runs in a respectable 1 minute, 19.53 seconds — more than five seconds ahead of teammate and runner-up Mackey Leal. “I didn’t try to push really hard because the conditions weren’t exactly normal,” said Kern, who rides with Auburn Ski Club. “It was soft on the top and kind of icy underneath.” Junior Austin Leal, Mackey’s younger brother, placed third in 1:24.96 — less than half a second behind his sibling — as the Colfax boys completed another clean sweep. They won all six events on the schedule. Placer’s Pete Porata finished fourth in 1:25.50, followed by the Falcons’ Evan Kaiser in seventh (1:28.02). Jacob Peek placed 12th for the Hillmen and teammate Colton Davenport was 22nd. Matt Baukol and James Learman finished 28-29 for Bear River, which lacks the depth of other teams in the division. In girls action, O’Connor, a senior, capped another stellar season by blazing to victory in 1:20.56, followed by Colfax freshman phenom Nelly Steinhoff in third place (1:28.62). Falcon teammate Shelby Young was right behind in fourth place (1:29.28), followed by Hillgals’ Emma Obray in eighth (1:32.17). Demi Ganster placed 18th to lead Bear River, while Colfax’s Hailey Davidson finished 20th and Placer’s Olivia Pederson was 21st.