The Cody Alpine ski team kicked off its season-opening meet last weekend with an underclassman surprise at the Laramie Invitational.
Freshman McKinley Ross took first in both of her giant slalom and slalom races Friday and Saturday.
“We haven’t seen anything like that in a long, long time,” coach Rick Stonehouse said. “We knew she would be good, maybe (a) top 10 (finish). But we didn’t expect her to win both days.”
There were no first place finishers last season among the Broncs or Fillies, nor did any freshman reach a top-10 finish.
For the Broncs, sophomore Sterling Banks took fourth in the GS race.
“It’s good we’ve got younger people who are better, and they need to continue getting better,” Banks said.
Both teams took second place at the six-team event, falling to perennial powerhouse Jackson.
But Ross was able to vanquish the foes from Teton County on an individual level. In Friday’s slalom she just edged past Jackson’s Sophie Morgan by .12 seconds.
“I just barely got them,” Ross said.
On Saturday, she won the GS .by 43 seconds over Jackson’s Sidney Nash.
Although only a freshman, Ross has been racing competitively for about seven years with the Silver Run Ski Team out of Red Lodge. She said she didn’t know quite what to expect at her first ever high school race.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” Ross said. “I heard Jackson does really well so I was a little nervous.”
She said after finishing both races, she nervously watched the scoreboard as her lead was challenged, but never beaten.
For Banks it was a performance he did not expect, as he was unsure if he would be even racing at the varsity level to start the week. Last season he only competed in one JV race. On Friday, he took 13th in slalom.
“I had a little bit of nerves going after that hiccup in the first race,” Banks said, “lost a little bit of self-confidence too.”
But whatever jitters he was feeling paid off, as Banks was only .59 seconds off from a podium finish in GS.
Sophomore David Reed was the model of consistency over the weekend with a seventh place finish in GS and eighth in slalom.
“His consistency was great all weekend long,” Stonehouse said.
Despite a bit of fresh snow along with cold and windy weather, conditions were ideal on the Snowy Range Ski Area courses, Ross and Banks said.
“We expected it to be a little hard after it snowed a good amount on top of hardpack snow, but it was actually really fun to ski,” Banks said.
Nicole Wagler finished 10th in GS and ninth in slalom.
Stonehouse said he likes his team’s chances to take out Jackson somewhere down the line. James Davis, who Stonehouse believes is the boys strongest skier, had a rough weekend, falling in both races. With a more typical performance from Davis, Stonehouse believes the sky’s the limit for the Broncs.
“We’re going to keep those guys chipping away at Jackson and maybe we’ll find a chink in the armor,” he said.
Stonehouse said he was also pleased with the performance of JV boys Maddox Growney and Garrett Kalkowski, who both finished with times that would have been good enough for sixth place in varsity GS. Kalkowski was first overall in JV GS.
“It’s a nice problem to have,” Stonehouse said regarding the tough choice of figuring out who will suit up for the next varsity race.
The Alpine team will get a week off before returning to action Jan. 24-25 at Hogadon Ski Area in Casper.