TA News

Alpine Ski Team Wrap-Up

A Personal Reflection by Coaches Amy Huyffer and Paul Dixon

The Alpine Ski Team’s season for 2019 was made up of six regular season meets, three slalom and three giant slalom, a district meet, and the state meet for qualifying teams.  Usually the races alternate between mountains and slalom and GS, but this was a year of logistical challenges, with all three slalom races in a row and two of the races only having a single run, instead of the standard combined-time-of-two-runs format.  Still, we had a great year with some breakout performances. High school skiing in Vermont is not by division; there’s just a southern league and northern league. TA races in the south, and cracking the top 20 is a big deal.

TA’s captains this year were Elle Dixon and Tait Linehan. Elle was 13th in slalom at Pico, 16th in GS at Districts.  Jack Hastings had some great runs this year, just not two at the same meet, but had a 14th placed run at Bromley in the GS.  Riley Burkins was a powerhouse in slalom, finishing in 18th at Pico and 20th at Bromley. Hugh O’Donnell, Jason, Alex Holzer and Ben Acker put in solid performances at Districts and with Tait’s 14th GS and 21st slalom finishes, we made it to States for the second year in a row, despite stronger competition from two new teams in the league.

States were a little tough for us.  In the GS, Tait was in 29th of our 91 racers after the first run, but got thrown around in his second run and finished the day in 42nd place.  Jack had tough morning, but found the run he’s been after all year in the second run to finish in 41st.

Slalom was challenging, with more than 20% of the field DNFing.  Hugh was our top finisher in 59th place, followed by Alex and Ben who were in fierce competition only with each other.  

A note about states: TA qualifed as a team on the boys’ side.  To qualify as an individual, Elle would have had to finish in the top ten in the league. She was in 5th after the first slalom run, but hooked a tip on the second.  At States, she was a forerunner on the courses, which means you run the course first to check the timing, and her times would have placed her 13th in slalom and 26th in GS.  Next year, Elle.

We train at Storrs Hill in Lebanon and the Lebanon Outing Club has been absolutely wonderful.  It’s not the biggest or steepest, but it’s the friendliest and when we hosted our first race there, they were fantastic.  That race, the first Annual Flannel Classic, was a blast. Tait was on the podium in third place and everyone who wore flannel got a free ice cream cone.  Put it on your calendars for next year.

Lastly, I’d like to recognize our two seniors, Hugh O’Donnell and Tait Linehan.  

Hugh joined the team as a junior and if there was an award for most improved athlete, Hugh might be a contender for the national title.  Only someone with Hugh’s incredible strength, balance, agility and athleticism could have skied like that and lived to tell about it. This year, it all came together for Hugh and he jumped twenty places in the standings.  He was our top finisher in slalom at States and a solid performer throughout the regular season. Hugh was a true team player, always happy, always underdressed, and never taking himself or anything else too seriously. Hugh was a true pleasure to coach and I’m going to miss him.  

Tait has been on the team all four years and has been our top finisher all that time and Captain the last two.  There’s a lot to do as Captain, helping set course, especially with our old screw gates. Tait had the team rallied and ready to go, was handing the tool to anyone who needed it before they knew they did.  He got the boys up early to cook breakfast at States—pancakes and spam breakfast sandwiches (thank you, Alex), and was a rock star at making this motley crew a team. It’s been an honor to coach you, Tait.  We’re going to miss you.

Photo: Jack Hastings (’21) racing at Suicide Six in February. By J. Acker

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