Wednesday Jan 19 2011
All aboard and away they go
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
Season begins today for Placer snowboard team
Suspended atop a mountain summit before a race, Emma Obray usually listens to her ipod and reflects on her personal summit. As the top-ranked girls snowboarder at Placer High, she not only has a mission to place in the top five at state individually, but also to contribute points to her team’s overall total. Listening to music helps her to relax and takes some of the pressure off before cruising down the peak. Obray was just one of about 50 Placer students who were led to consistent victories last year by coach Mark Faulkner. As the team prepares for this season, they are looking forward to another impressive finish. “We compete in a tough league against teams like North Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Colfax,” Faulkner said. “But we still have the goal of placing in the top three in league and of course to have fun and be safe.” Part of that success hinges upon the performance of individuals such as Obray and the boys varsity leader Pete Porata in the giant slalom and slalom events, but it is even more crucial that the entire team remain consistent. In snowboarding individuals compete separately and for the team total. Although there can only be one winner in each category it is the combined performance of the team that makes for a championship season. “As a coach I look at individuals. The top four are the point-grabbers, but you need five through eight to run a clean race,” Faulkner said. “Getting each individual person performing at their optimum is the goal.” Honing each player’s skills on the slopes takes a considerable amount of commitment from the coaches and athletes. Each Thursday the team travels to Boreal to spend the afternoon practicing before they race on Mondays. Coach Faulkner sets up a course for the students to ride and gives them feedback on how they can improve. While the students take their role on the team seriously, doing what they love is what motivates them most on the mountain. “During a race I just go up there and snowboard and have fun with it.” Porata said. While not practicing or competing, many of the teammates also go boarding with friends, grinding on rails and attempting aeronautical tricks. This helps them to diffuse from competition and keep the sport fun. Porata’s outlook has made him a three-time state qualifier in the boys’ varsity division. His hope is to see his team go to state, despite new challenges. Graduation last year forced them to say goodbye to several team powerhouses, including three-time California Nevada Interscholstic Ski and Snowboard Federation State Champion Caty O’Connor. Currently, there are only six varsity girls on the team, so the coaching staff is working on developing a new group of talent. Unlike most high school sports, the snowboard team also has to face-off against the elements. Armed with a top of the line transportation system and a bus driver who has been known to pull over to put chains on, the Placer snowboarding team has grown accustomed to coming out victorious. With a 2009 state championship, girls state championships and individual state championships all under his tenure, Faulkner is ready for these and any other challenges that may come. Placer administration has also been supportive of the team’s journey to excellence by allowing the athletes to leave school at lunch-time to practice in daylight and still have time for homework. Porata and Obray both have ambitions that extend beyond their time riding into academics. They plan on attending college next year and have each applied to several California schools. “My parents don’t mind if I leave school early to practice on Thursdays as long as I keep my grades good.” Obray said. “I am planning on going away to school, maybe at UC Santa Cruz.” Practice started last week in preparation for the team’s first race today at Northstar. Upon sizing up the competition, Porata feels Colfax has some strong contenders, but also looks to Colton Davenport and Jacob Reese to be in the top three from his own team. Though time and weather constraints make snowboarding a difficult spectator sport, the Placer team always welcomes fans who make the trip to cheer them on as they work to reach their summit.