Local boarders carve their niche

Placer’s dynamic duo leads a strong group of local riders into state championships
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Mitchell Cohodes used to look far and wide to find someone faster on a snowboard than himself. The Colfax High senior will find plenty of competition when the Falcons hit the slopes at Northstar for the California Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation championships March 5-6. Before high school racing me and my friends would just go out and ride around and there was no one a whole lot better than us, Cohodes said. The competition now is really good. Going against kids from other schools, it's a rush. Placer will send eight snowboarders to state, led by defending CNISSF champion Caty O'Connor, a sophomore. Hillgals' senior Nicole Porata will make her fourth straight trip to state as the No. 2 qualifier (behind O'Connor) from Central Division II. Cohodes will lead a contingent of six Colfax boys and four Falcon girls into the state competition, which includes slalom and giant slalom races on consecutive days. Meanwhile Robby Stoddart and Bren Schenk will lead five Bear River riders to the state championships after surviving the Central Division II gauntlet. We're the strongest division in the state and that's what kind of makes it tough for us, said Central Division II coordinator Jack Morgan, who coaches the Colfax boarders. We're competing against the best every week, so we really beat up on each other for those state spots. The Placer girls were the highest scoring female group in the division, but snowboarding is based on boys and girls' combined scoring. North Tahoe edged Colfax for the Division II team title while Placer wound up third. Freshman Pete Porata ” Nicole's brother ” was the top qualifier for the Placer boys while junior Chris O'Connor ” Caty's brother ” was close behind. Senior Mike Muraki will also represent the Hillmen at state. Colfax freshman Austin Leal is headed to state after an impressive season that began in the junior varsity ranks. We had him with the JVs and we quickly saw that he was performing well beyond that level, Morgan said. Austin's been racing on the Squaw Valley team for a while and he's really into it, Cohodes added. By the time he's a senior he's going to own high school racing. The Colfax squad got a boost from first-year coach Jeb Scicluna. The Colfax graduate has coached in Italy and New Zealand and now serves as the head trainer at Boreal. He's so amped about being a coach and he really knows what it's like to race, Cohodes said of the first-year coach. He offers us everything he can. He's always energetic and he's just on top of things. Placer coach Mark Faulkner has seen his team make steady progress throughout the season, especially on the girls side. Senior Hailey Stockman and junior Jenni Dawson will bolster Placer's presence at state along with up-and-coming freshman Emma Obray, who will compete in the slalom. While O'Connor and Porata receive much of the attention, Stockman and Dawson are also contenders for all-state honors, which go to top 10 finishers at state. Hailey's had a great year, Faulkner said. And Jenni Dawson's had an incredible year. Porata is looking to earn all-state recognition for the third year in a row. As a sophomore, she was 10th at state. Porata took fourth last year and will likely contend with her teammate O'Connor for the individual crown at Northstar. Both of the Hillgals' stars are competing in a United States of American Snowboard Association competition this weekend in Oregon. The local schools' snowboarding programs are funded primarily through fees paid by the athletes. Morgan estimated that each participant pays $500 for the season, which covers all of the basic fees, though individual races may require additional costs. The Auburn Ski Club provides a donation to offset costs for the teams in the foothills, making access to skiing and snowboarding programs much easier for Placer, Colfax and Bear River students. They pay about half of what the kids from Davis pay for the season, Morgan said. Morgan is organizing a boardercross exhibition event for the state championships and hopes to see the event added to the high school slate in the coming years. As snowboarding continues to evolve, so will the racing. We don't have any real shredders that just like the terrain parks “ they like to compete, Morgan said. I think giant slalom and slalom are fine, but it's a little too much of the same thing. In the Olympics they have giant slalom, but also boardercross and halfpipe, so we're trying to move in that direction.