In it, to win it |

In it, to win it

The Union StaffNevada Union snowboarder Nolan Hale carves a turn around a gate at the 2002 state championships at Mammonth Mountain. Hale is back for his senior season and has won all five events this year.
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Nolan Hale has dominated like this before.

Heading into today’s final event of Nevada Union High School’s snowboarding regular season, it hasn’t mattered whether he’s headed down a slalom or giant slalom course.

He’s won every single event – five in total, if you’re counting.

But that’s nothing new to the NU senior. He’s won five races in each of the last two seasons, dominating the school circuit ever since the NU snowboard team first hit the slopes.

Today, though, he’s out to finish the job.

“The last two years, I’ve won five out of six,” Hale said, just before explaining what happened in the events he didn’t win. “Falls. I don’t like to fall.”

Those falls left him short of shutting out the entire field of competitors taking to the slopes in California Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation events.

That’s only two races in the past three years that someone without the surname Hale has walked away with a win. And for that to happen a third time, it would most likely be the result of another fall – something that might be on his mind as he stands at the start gate at Homewood today.

“Most likely, yeah, it will be on my mind,” he said with a smile. “I’ll probably start out a little bit slower than normal. But it depends on the course.”

Judging from his results this season, he most likely will have time to spare. Typically after the first of two runs, he’s held a lead of several seconds. By the time he’s combined the two, everyone else is racing for second place.

Look at the last time the Miners hit Homewood’s run. Hale’s first run clocked 37.49 seconds. His second was even better, 37.42 for a combined 74.91. The closest competitor was his buddy and teammate Joe Kremple, who finished nearly three seconds back at 77.36. Third-place came in nearly seven seconds slower Hale’s two-run time.

Winning in such fashion might inflate the ego of most athletes, but Hale’s outside the CNISSF series has kept him humble. And at the same time, it’s made him even more dominant at the high school level.

In competing at grand prix races on weekends as a member of Squaw Valley team, he’s racing against much stiffer competition. And though his ego is more often bruised, he relishes every minute of carving turns with more experienced boarders.

“Most kids in high school are ready to let it go, let the board go downhill,” he said. “It’s scary, but you go to the grand prix races and all those guys, I’ve learned so much. It’s just a huge learning experience every race. Those guys, they just show how it’s done.

“I don’t want to put high school (racing) down. It’s still good, a fun time, and it’s all about having fun in high school. But when I joined the Squaw team, it was like ‘Man, I don’t know how to snowboard.'”

He’s since sharpened his skills, retooling everything from his stance to his approach to each gate. He no longer looks a course over and says ‘Let’s go.’ Now he’s plotting strategies, looking three gates downhill, even as his board is currently cutting the corner on another.

He’s a smarter snowboarder and he has to be, if he’s going to reach the goals he’s dreamt up – including being a member of U.S. Olympic Snowboard team.

He’s already rubbed elbows with some of the top boarders across the country, including a few brushes in boardercross events that left him a bit spooked.

In boardercross events, which are not part of the high school scene, your opponents aren’t waiting at the start gate until you complete your run. They’re not racing against your time, but against you – on the course at the same time, similar to moto-cross events.

Scooting downhill at high speeds with boarder breathing down your neck, bumping into your switches from front to backside, well …

“It’s so scary,” Hale said. “In the three races I’ve finished, I’ve only placed second once and I DQ’d (disqualified) on one of the other two, because everybody crashed into each other and I got my board stuck in a fence and couldn’t get my arm out.

“It’s not only what move you’re going to make, but what the guy in front and behind you are doing. And when you crash, you get hit by boards. The snow tears you up. And once you get back up, two more people fall on you.”

Hale spoke of a couple of crashes he witnessed at national events, in which two boarders were airlifted from Mammoth Mountain to Reno. Such memories scare him, but not enough to pull out of boardercross events.

“No, because I want to win,” he said.

That, of course, is something he’s done plenty of on the high school scene. And though today is the final regular season event in CNISSF competition, the state meet is still ahead, where he won the giant slalom as a junior.

And though he hopes to defend that title, Hale said he most of all wants to simply enjoy his final events as an NU snowboarder.

“I still think this is super fun,” he said. “(The grand prix races) are also fun, but those seem like more serious fun. It’s not like ‘Yeah, I’m on the snowboard team.’

“Everybody is in it to win it.”

Sounds like he fits right in.

Brian Hamilton

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