Miners on the mountain
February 22, 2013
The Nevada Union alpine ski team comes into each season with several goals, but one seems to carry over from year to year — beat Davis.
With the league season having concluded Monday at Boreal, the Miners will have to wait another year for that to come to fruition.
"My freshman year we beat them," said senior Olivia McDowell. "But ever since, we've come in second. Every year it's our main goal to beat them, but every year it's like we just barely get edged out."
The Blue Devils from Davis extended their strangle hold on the California Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation Central II Division's overall top spot to three straight years. But this year, NU made a big step in the right direction in its effort to dethrone the juggernaut Blue Devils. This season, the Miners' boys team was able to grab the No. 1 spot in its league, topping Davis, but a third-place finish by the girls left NU in second place overall in the final league standings.
Davis took first, and Colfax was second in the girls division.
The last time NU beat Davis for the overall title was in 2011, said Olivia.
The boys team had a stellar year, led by brothers Robert and Micheal Sekerak and freshman Peter McDowell.
"This season went great," Peter said. "As a freshman, I did super well this year, and the boys won the league championship, so I'm pretty stoked about that, and it was a team effort. It wasn't just one person who stood out and carried the team."
Peter said the team has lots of young talent and depth, which allows for them to continue their success in the future.
"With our team, if one person doesn't do great, the depth we have on the boys side allows someone else to step up and do well," he said. "We have a lot of sophomores and freshmen that are looking really good."
While Peter is looking forward to his final race of his freshman year — the state race at Shasta in March — he still has three more years to continue working toward the team goal of toppling Davis.
For his sister, Olivia, the state race will be the final one of her prep career.
Olivia has made it to the state competition each of her four years on the varsity alpine team and has finished as high as 12th in past seasons. This year, she said she wants to crack the top 10.
"State's is the funnest thing," she said. "I've gone all four years, and it's just so much fun."
To make the state competition, girls must finish in the top 10 in at least two league races. Olivia has accomplished that and is currently ranked No. 6 heading into the competition.
NU head coach Ken Ramirez said Olivia's experience and knowledge of the sport will serve her well in her final prep race.
Seniors Julia Ramirez and Quinlan Grim also qualified for the girls state race and will be representing NU at Shasta in March.
The boys team will be taking six racers to the state competition, and Peter said he has his sights on finishing in the top 10 or better.
"Realistically, I think top 10, but it would be awesome to get top five," he said.
Ramirez said that Peter has a bright future and has the potential to do well at the state race.
"Peter has incredible speed but is still young and developing," he said. "He's one of our fastest and has a great desire and hunger to get better."
Ramirez said if his racers ski to their potential, several Miner skiers could reach the podium at Shasta.
"We have some top racers," he said. "If they ski to their potential, they can place high."
The state tournament features 20 teams from the CNISSF all competing to be named the top ski school on the West Coast.
For Peter and Olivia, skiing has been a family affair since they were in grade school. Peter and Olivia started skiing with their mother and father when they were very young and have not put their poles down since. Their mother, Alex McDowell, a chemistry teacher at NU is also an assistant coach on the ski team, and their older sister, Marnie McDowell, starred on NU's ski team and is currently on the UC Davis ski team.
While each McDowell has a distinct style on the slopes, Peter and Olivia agree on one thing: Peter is the fastest, Olivia is second and Marnie would place third if they all raced.
Peter attributes his speed to his lack of fear.
"I've never really been scared of a whole lot," Peter said. "I'm not very smart about that kind of stuff."
Peter's fearlessness has led to several injuries, he said. Over the years peter has incurred a concussion, a broken wrist, a dislocated thumb and broken toes.
But what makes the McDowell siblings different from other racers is their dedication to the sport, said Ramirez.
"They have a great love for competitive sports, and that goes far," he said.
Peter is also a lacrosse player with the Gold Country Stampede, and Olivia was a member of the girls varsity volleyball team.
Peter said that he is always striving to get better, and that will always give him an edge on much of the competition.
"A lot of the kids don't have the right mindset when they go out," he said. "They don't focus on getting better. A lot just go out and goof off. If every time you go out you focus on the things that you want to get better, you will definitely get better."
The McDowells, along with the other state qualifiers from NU, will continue to train as they build toward the final race of the season March 3-7 at Shasta.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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