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Placer shreds toward state

Hillgals the favorites for state crown after dominating divisional competition
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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NORDEN — The Placer High girls ski team isn’t viewing next week’s trip to Mammoth Mountain as a relaxing vacation. The Hillgals are looking to take care of business as they seek their second state championship in three years. Davis denied Placer back-to-back California-Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation girls team titles last season, beating out the Hillgals by a measly six points. This winter, Placer dominated the Central Division II campaign, beating the rival Blue Devils and everyone else in each and every race this season. “We lost a couple good girls last year (Meredith Plant and Melissa Tidd), so I think we were a little worried initially,” said junior Paige Rothe, who was fourth at the state championships last year. “But we gained my sister Lanae (Rothe) and Karly (Kenworthy) and they’re both really good.” Kenworthy, a sophomore who has raced with Paige in Auburn Ski Club for the past four years, won five of the six Central Division II races this season. Paige won the other race. The two speedsters have excelled in competitive Far West races and teaming up on the same team has been a rewarding experience. “(High school racing) is more for fun, but we still try hard and we really want to win,” Kenworthy said. “It’s fun to go out and represent Placer. A state championship would mean a lot to us.” The Hillgals may be the favorites for the state championship, but with 240 skiers in each event and more than 40 teams hitting the mountain, nothing is guaranteed. A missed gate or even a minor miscue on the course could mean the difference between a championship and a back-of-the-pack finish. “Anything can happen,” Paige Rothe said. “We’re the No. 1 team from our division, so we have a good shot, but if one of us has a bad race, it throws the rest of us off. Getting pumped before the run is key for me. If your mind’s not in it, it’s hard to focus.” First-year coach Matt Conley is hoping the team can duplicate its performance from 2007, when Placer won it all at Mt. Shasta. Conley said the team’s positive attitude and constant encouragement have been keys all season. “It’s fun to coach kids when they’re wearing big smiles all the time,” Conley said. “They’re always focused and ready to go when we’re on the hill and they’re all pulling for each other. They really enjoy the competition and that helps a lot.” Senior Erin Babich will join the Rothe sisters and Kenworthy, giving Placer four skiers capable of top 10 finishes. The top three times for two slalom runs and two giant slalom runs go toward the team scores. While not nearly as dominant as the girls, the Placer boys will be well represented at state. Travis Tidd and McCall Falkenstein will race in both the slalom and GS. Julian Faulkner qualified in the GS and Kyle Wells made it to state in the slalom. The trip alone — four days at Mammoth Mountain with friends and family — is an enticing reward after the six races at resorts around Truckee and Lake Tahoe. “There’s a lot of good skiers from all over the state, but we have a really good team,” Paige Rothe said. ‘So that makes it even more fun to go down there.”