By John Goralski
At the end of their first run, Erika Florian finished one breath faster than Casey Abraham for third place at the Slalom Shootout. When the teammates finished their second run, they had flipped positions at the top of the standings.
On Monday, Feb. 25, the competition for Team Connecticut had been pared to just 30 boys and 30 girls, but it was the large numbers of Southington skiers that made this different than any previous state competition.
Six Knights qualified for the first shootout with all but one advancing to the final challenge. After four runs on the slalom course, four Knights earned positions of the state team.
It’s the biggest representation from the local program in the history of the team.
“We did pretty well,” said Southington ski racing coach Sean Florian. “Basically, we wanted the kids to go easy for their first couple of runs. Well, maybe not easy but not too hard. Then, we wanted them to go after it.”
When the final scores were tallied, Abraham (109.13) edged Florian (110.55) for third place in the standings, but both were named to the Team CT roster.
“This is their element,” said the coach. “Slalom is a lot quicker, and the gates come at you a lot faster. They’re only 10 or 12 meters apart versus GS where they’re 26 meters apart. It comes at you faster, and it’s really quick. You have to be ready to do battle with all your armor on. Gates are smashing you in the head and the arms. Our girls that were here ski a lot of slalom, and that’s an advantage.”
The contest totals the top two times from the Grand Slalom (GS) with the top two teams from the Slalom Shootout, and the fastest 12 are picked for the CT team.
In addition, two Knights qualified in the boys race, and it might have been three except that Brian Chambers was forced to withdraw from the competition with a concussion.
Robert Chambers (104.13) finished fourth overall, and Sebastian Doughty (105.66) finished ninth. Both will represent CT at the Eastern High School Championships at Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire on March 8-10.
“This is pretty important to them. The kids like the camaraderie of the high school championships,” said Florian. “It’s been a fun year, and we still haved a couple of more races to go. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got to work on getting more depth and more new kids in.”
Abraham carried that momentum back to Mt. Southington on Tuesday, Feb. 26, as she outdistanced 67 other skiers to capture the top spot at the CISL race.
Abraham (45.83) edged Cheshire’s Kelsie Carlette by one hundredth of a second to capture the title. Florian (48.43) edged teammate Anna Schneider (48.49) for sixth place overall.
Despite three top 10 finishes, the Lady Knights (315.52) placed fifth out of eight varsity teams. Rebecca Ryan (52.28), Carolyn Zesut (59.35), and Rachel Klem (61.14) scored. Marissa Tedeschi (65.86), Megan Enright (75.12), and Melanie Tedeschi (100.88) contributed.
Robert Chambers (43.56) finished second overall in the boys race, just half of a second off the lead.
Doughty (45.84), Mike Schneider (48.24), Zach Palmer (55.48), Austin Gentile (56.09), and Ian Jacobs (56.82) scored. Austin Coley (60.4), Colton McLinnis (62.44), and Tanner Walsh (70.61) contributed.
Southington (306.03) finished seventh out of 11 varsity squads.