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O’Connor craves the carve

Placer senior, several other locals seeking hardware at state championships this week
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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There are actually nerves hiding behind Caty O’Connor’s wide smile and giggles. But the Placer High senior has felt them before and usually seems to find a way to leave them far behind once her snowboard hits the snow. O’Connor will be chasing a third California-Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation championship when she gets on her board today at Mount Shasta for the start of the slalom competition. She’ll also be relishing her final few days in a Placer bib after four glorious years. “It’s sad to think about it,” O’Connor said. “It’s been really fun. All the years, all the different girls and boys I’ve gotten to be friends with and this is our last hurrah.” She’s already one of the most decorated athletes ever at Placer. Lindsay Hyatt, who won four state titles in the 800 meters, is the only other Placer athlete to win more than two individual state championships. Former Placer skier Ali Jacobsen won two state championships. O’Connor just missed out on a third individual state title last year, placing second. She was happy to make a huge contribution to Placer’s team championship — its first. Snowboarding is scored as a coed sport with the top three boys and girls from each school counting toward the overall team score. Placer again has a strong contingent, though it will be in the shadow of a loaded Colfax squad. “Our team is really solid, but it’s small,” Placer coach Mark Faulkner said. “It’s a tough go, but we just hope to be consistent. There’s no margin for error. There are six competitors and you need three girls and three boys to do well. Last year it worked out for us.” Colfax has a major numbers advantage this week. The Falcons boast eight boys and five girls in the field. The Colfax boys claimed the Central Division II crown last month, led by senior Danny Kern. Brothers Mackey Leal and Austin Leal could also be contenders for the individual title. Placer’s boys are led by Pete Porata. Jacob Peek and Colton Davenport will also look to bolster the Hillmen. O’Connor’s top competition may come from some familiar faces. Colfax’s Shelby Young and Nelly Steinhoff were on her heels all season in Central Division II action. Truckee’s Ruby Wood actually beat O’Connor in a league race, which hadn’t happened since she was a sophomore. “The competition this year from our division is huge,” Faulkner said. “Colfax and Truckee are very good and who knows about the Northern Section and Southern Section teams. But winning state is definitely on (O’Connor’s) list of things to do this season.” Placer teammate Emma Obray is aiming for another top-10 finish at state. The junior took sixth last year. O’Connor was headed to a disappointing finish last year at Mammoth Mountain before flashing her brilliance in the clutch. After a fourth place finish in the GS and a subpar first run in the slalom, O’Connor laid down a perfect second run that was a full three seconds faster than anyone else in the 130-girl field. The state championships aren’t necessarily the highlight of the snowboarding season for O’Connor, who competes on the USSA Rev Tour. She is ranked 19th in the country in boardercross and 40th in slopestyle. At last weekend’s Rev Tour stop at Boreal O’Connor had her best finish ever in slopestyle, taking third place. But O’Connor is fiercely proud to wear Placer’s green and gold. “I take state very seriously,” she said. “I’m representing my school so I want to try to do Placer justice. I like helping out my school, too. I love competing a lot, no matter what race it is.” Faulkner said O’Connor’s attitude is infectious. “She’s super-resilient and she’s got a great attitude,” the coach said. “She’s keeping all the boys squared up this week. She was hard-charging to get on the snow.” O’Connor isn’t sure what her future holds on the slopes. She may opt to compete professionally, or continue to pursue snowboarding as a high level hobby. “I don’t really know,” she said. “I will be snowboarding. I just don’t know if I’ll be paid to snowboard.”