Houghton-Hancock prep skiers conquer conditions, field at Ripley

RIPLEY – Fighting through whiteout snow and biting cold, the Houghton-Hancock boys’ and girls’ ski teams handled the swirling conditions better than opponents Ironwood and Kingsford Thursday afternoon to come away with a pair of victories at their home invitational at Mont Ripley.

Leslie Hamar pulled off the double-win for H-H in slalom and giant slalom, while the boys’ depth prevailed for 35 total points, with the girls on top with a 31 final score. Kingsford took second in both boys (44) and girls (71) with Ironwood finishing third. The Marquette teams – often H-H’s biggest rivals – were absent due to weather-related school cancellations in their area.

“I think it went really well today,” H-H coach Brian Henderson said. “I think we have really good depth this year. The kids have been training hard and working hard and the improvement is really showing.

“So all in all a good day for us. Too bad that Marquette couldn’t make it down, but we were very happy to have this meet.”

Hamar put together the top two runs of the day in the slalom to finish with a 1:28.26 total in the morning and then came back to take home the GS title in the afternoon with a 1:10.98. Kingsford’s Mandy Haferkorn took second in both events.

According to Henderson, the banner day was a long time coming with the effort Hamar has put forth in practice each week.

“That is just so cool for her,” Henderson said. “Leslie has really put the time in this year and has been training hard and it is starting to show. This is her home hill and she was excited to get here and race against her competition. It was her turn. She has been very close to winning all season long and it was wonderful for her. All about her hard work.”

The conditions that kept Marquette at home provided an added challenge to the skiers who made it to Ripley Thursday.

In particular, the whiteout snow for the slalom really challenged each skier’s technical ability as visibility was extremely compromised.

The difficulty could prove beneficial in the long as weather conditions often act as a variable come regionals.

“There is a huge difference in whiteout conditions,” Henderson said. “It gives you a split-second of hesitation and a thousandth of a second is the difference between first or second often times. You really have to be focused in and out of your turns.”

On the boys’ side, Kingsford’s Nick Cecconi won the slalom with a 1:22.91 mark, with H-H?skiers Tony Stein (1:24.28) and Ian Helman (1:25.38) finishing in second and third.

In the GS, Kingsford’s Adam Michaud took first with a 1:08.13 time, with Jacob Jarvis (1:08.87) and Connor Johnson (1:08.87) of H-H coming in second and third.

The plethora of top finishers has Henderson encouraged for the upcoming regional meet.

“I am very confident that both the boys’ and the girls’ teams have an opportunity to do some special things this year,” Henderson said. “With hard work in the next couple races and if all the things align that need to, they have the potential and capability to have an outstanding season this year.”