Ken Ramirez has coached the Nevada Union alpine ski team since 1991 and led his skiers to more state and division titles than any other team on campus.
In fact, NU has had so much success Ramirez can’t even recall how many times it has won — a dilemma most coaches would dream about.
“If you go in the gym and look at the ceiling, you can count them,” Ramirez said.
This year, the Miners look to add another banner to their collection and possibly make some more noise on the podium at the California Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation State Championships in March at Shasta.
“We have 35 kids on the roster,” said Ramirez. “There’s a really good succession from year to year. This year, one of our top skiers is a freshman, Peter McDowell. The Sekerak twins are the senior captains, and they bring a lot of experience, too.”
Robert and Michael Sekerak are not only talented skiers, but as captains, they’re always a good example for younger kids to watch.
“Our team is looking really good,” said Robert Sekerak. “Our newer racers have improved by leaps and bounds. It would be really nice to win league again.”
Michael Sekerak is excited for another season and has his sights set on making some improvements of his own.
“I want to qualify for slalom and giant slalom at state,” said Michael Sekerak. “Last year, I was disqualified for (giant slalom) after I clipped a gate.”
A handful of the kids have been racing since before high school, including Ramirez’s daughter, Julia Ramirez, so when they come out for the team, they acclimate well to the competitiveness the high school level brings.
“I’ve been skiing since I was younger and love going up the mountain with friends,” said McDowell. “I love standing in the start gate. You’re a little nervous and there’s a lot of adrenaline.”
Olivia McDowell and Quinlan Grim look to provide solid leadership for the NU girls this season.
“The team looks pretty good this year, and the guys are really stepping it up,” said Olivia McDowell. “We have younger classmen looking good in practice. The girls can step it up, too.”
Last year’s state champions, the Davis High Blue Devils, are a strong threat this season with 66 kids on their roster. Some of the guys reached upward of 60 mph last weekend, said Ken Ramirez.
To prepare for the season, the team has participated in dry-land practices since November and performed situational drills, focusing on body positioning to make the transition to the slopes smoother, Ken Ramirez said.
In 2010 and 2011, NU finished second as a team at the state competition, coming within just a few points of Davis. Last season, the Miners missed the podium.
It depends if skiers stay up or fall and make one little mistake, then points will go to someone else, said Ken Ramirez.
In the 2013 season opener at Northstar last week, the boys took first place, while the girls finished third, which gave NU a second-place finish overall behind Davis.
“It’s one of the few sports that combines boys and girls results,” said Ken Ramirez. “It’s truly a team sport. I tell the kids there are three ways to win: taking gold, making improvements and, in the face of defeat, to learn from and respect opponents.”
While only 10 boys and 10 girls will race on the varsity circuit, everyone else races in the open division so there are no benchwarmers.
“Everyone gets to race and find something achievable for them,” added assistant coach Alexandra McDowell.
Skiing has also proved to be a positive life sport for many students at NU who take it to new levels well after high school.
“I’ve had more kids maintaining the sport and stay in the industry than other sports I’ve coached,” said Ken Ramirez. “Our state champion, Megan Michelson, is an editor for Ski magazine now. Others have gone into coaching or work at resorts.”
For more on the NU alpine ski team, visit www.cnissf.org/.
The Miners’ next race is Monday at Sugar Bowl.
Snowboard team looks to carve out spot on podium
The Nevada Union snowboard team opened its season with a great performance at Boreal Monday with its top four girls placing third, fourth, 10th and 12th, which was good enough for first place overall. The boys top four finished seventh, ninth, 24th and 26th, earning them a fourth-place finish.
“We have a smaller team this year,” said assistant coach Doug Faker. “Drew Bernadett is a senior who is returning for the girls. She’s the state champ in slalom.”
For the boys, 10 boarders run on the varsity circuit, and three race the open division. The girls have just five, so they all race for points, said head coach Don Farber. Throughout the season, the top four finishers earn points for their team with the only exception being the state championship, where it’s the top three.
“It’s going to be Drew (Bernadett) and Cline (Holland) stepping up to lead the girls boarders,” said Farber.
Bernadett will handle captain duties for the girls, Farber said, while Phillip Breaux will captain the boys team.
“They’ve been leaders every year, and now they’re seniors,” he said. “They’re devout and great caregivers in practice and both have positive attitudes.”
Breaux, who took ninth place in the opening race at Boreal, is optimistic about the new season.
“This year is more promising than most,” said Breaux. “All our riders are stepping it up and firing on all cylinders, so there’s great potential.”
Another bright spot for the Miners is the return of Cline Holland. Her absence was a big blow last season after she tore her ACL.
NU feels it is the team to beat for the girls, and its boys will contest with a tough Placer squad, Farber said.
Nevada Union finished 13th out of 29 schools for combined team results in the state championship at Northstar last year with the girls coming in seventh and the boys finishing 18th.
Four of NU’s guys went to state last season, including Dakota Agram, who qualified for slalom, and Breaux, Colby Criddle and Andrew Scarafiotti, who each qualified for giant slalom. For the girls, Bernadett, Faith Robichaud and Morgan Shade qualified for slalom, while Bernadett, Robichaud and Courtney Green qualified for giant slalom.
The Miners are confident they can challenge the other five schools in the Central II division and perhaps even take it a bit further in the state competition in March. Their competition includes Tahoe-Truckee, North Tahoe, Colfax, Davis and Placer.
“Our guys and girls can win the division,” Farber said. “We want to get on the podium and be in the top three at state for combined and individually. Dakota and Phillip are looking good. Andrew can really ride. We have depth on both teams. They all work really hard and have the capability.”
Not everyone on the team has always been racing, but the conversion from rider to racer isn’t too complicated, according to Breaux.
“It was an opportunity to learn from the coaches and have an excuse to go up the mountain,” Breaux said. “I’ve learned more the past four years than all my years of riding. Once you lock in the basics of riding efficiently, speed follows. Applying what you learn unlocks some crazy doors.”
The weather has certainly cooperated this season, allowing the team to get in a lot of practice runs already. The Miners have been doing conditioning and dry-land training, preparing for the snow at Sugar Bowl, which they practice at every Saturday, Faker said.
“It’s been great snow conditions compared to last year when we trained on the sidewalk,” said Farber. “Everyone opened early. It helps. (The kids) have to keep their passion.”
Despite the team being smaller in number this season, the camaraderie appears to be stronger than ever.
“This is such a positive group of kids, and they’re refreshing to be around because they’re so motivated to help each other,” said Faker. “It’s a great atmosphere and a lot of fun.”
The Miners hit the slopes again Monday at Alpine Meadows.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call (530) 477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org