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Conroy conquering the slopes

Relentless work ethic pays off for Auburn skier, who recently won two FIS races
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Shannon Conroy is always the last one off the mountain. After other skiers have traded in ski-lift seats for the comforts of the lodge, Conroy, 19, puts in two or three extra runs. Her commitment to alpine skiing has earned this Auburn native a spot on the Squaw Valley Ski Team and what she hopes will be one in the U.S. National Championships. Conroy won first-place at Sugar Bowl in two International Ski Federation (FIS) races this year and recently returned from national qualifiers at Snow King in Jackson Hole, Wyo. She said her work ethic has been the catalyst for her success in skiing. “I’m not naturally gifted at skiing, but by determination and hard work I have been able to get to the level I am at,” Conroy said. She commutes to Squaw Valley three to four days a week, training with coaches Nick Maiocco and Konrad Rickenbach, a former coach for the U.S. Ski Team. During practice, Conroy has other goals aside from going to nationals that motivate her. She is aiming to lower her points in the International Ski Federation, the governing body for national ski associations, standings and race in the NCAA at the college level. Conroy’s coaches have played a pivotal role in shaping her as a skier over her five years on the Squaw Valley team. “Nick Maiocco and Konrad Rickenbach have been really amazing,” Conroy said. “(Maiocco) has worked with me for years and (Rickenbach) has a really good eye.” During last week’s national qualifiers, Conroy was sick and consequently missed one of the three races. After taking a day off to recover, she came back to place eighth and 19th in the remaining slalom races. “She was a little under the weather, but had some great results at Sugar Bowl a few weeks ago,” Rickenbach said. Rickenbach said that Conroy’s commitment and performance this season show that her chances of making it to the U.S. Nationals are good. “Squaw has always had a lot of good skiers,” Rickenbach said. “As far as the hardest-working person on the team goes, it’s Shannon.” Conroy said her greatest obstacle has been that she started racing at 11, much later in life than many of her competitors, who started at 5 or 6. She credits long practice hours for leveling the field, since most skiers who begin so late are not able to reach the level she has. Being home-schooled gave Conroy the advantage of tailoring her school schedule around her practices. Conroy is now a 4.0 student at Sierra College, but plans on transferring next year to a university in Montana or on the East Coast to fulfill her college skiing aspirations. She said she is considering double-majoring in a science and art because she is drawn to using both sides of her brain. Conroy finds solidarity with her Squaw Valley teammates, despite skiing being such an individual sport. She said that they cheer one another on and she is motivated by Squaw’s deep tradition as part of the U.S. Ski Team. “We have had 50-plus kids on the Olympic team,” Rickenbach said. “It’s an incredible mountain and there are just a lot of opportunities for training on different terrain.” Conroy is optimistic about the rest of her season and wants to go as far as she can in her skiing career. Former Squaw teammate Christie Patient has seen Conroy’s perseverance first hand. “Shannon is seriously the most dedicated person I have ever met in my life,” Patient said. “She is obsessive and pours in every ounce of her body, mind and soul to skiing. She is someone to look up to.” Patient also said Conroy’s practice has paid off, which is especially evident in the strength of her slalom races. Maiocco said that Conroy’s next avenue toward nationals will come at the FIS Western Region Junior Championship race in March. If she places first or second she will secure a spot among the 60 best skiers in the country. “In the Far West Division she is probably the No. 1 girl going into the championship,” Maiocco said. “She works and works and works, so you work with her as a coach and want good things to happen for her.” “I’m better than last year,” Conroy said. “ Its encouraging that I’m certainly improving.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com