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Team wraps up season with appearance at state; program on the rise in its third season of competition

PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE JULIANA
 - Senior Dawson Wells is one of two skiers graduating from the Newberg Tigers team this season.

Earlier this month the Newberg High School ski team – a club established three years ago – had a pair of athletes compete in the state meet at Mount Hood Meadows. Senior Dawson Wells and junior Kate Ortloff took to the slopes as representatives of the Tigers, and although they didn't place, they set a precedent for future team success.

Coach Jeff Petersen is in his first year at the helm of the program after helping out last season when his son joined the team. He said he was thrilled to lead this sizeable group of skiers into the 2019 campaign.

"With my high school skiing background and instructor background, they asked me to coach the team this year," Petersen said. "My son goes to Newberg High and is on the team, and I was class of 1991 at Newberg High. I grew up here and moved to Dundee with my parents in 1986."

The high school ski season runs through January and February, with state competition taking place in early March. The Tigers have dry land conditioning three times a week and practice on Mount Hood every Friday evening during the season, with league meets on Saturdays at the same venue.

Newberg competes in the Metro Ski League with 16 schools from the Portland area. It typically practices alongside Tigard and Tualatin and the group calls itself "TNT" – standing for Tigard, Newberg and Tualatin.

The season consists of six league meets and a few of what Petersen calls "fun" meets. In league duels, the Tigers race as a team and get team and individual points for the fastest timed runs, but skiers have to get two runs completed for their times to officially count.

Participation in the team ballooned this season, Petersen said, adding that the turnout was impressive, as was the visible improvement of this group on the slopes.

"It was a great season and everybody improved," Petersen said. "The team has grown exponentially over the last three years. They started out with eight and we had around 20 kids this year, which is a big program. With how expensive it is and how so much time and effort it takes, it's not an easy sport to participate in."

Skiing is not an OSAA-sanctioned varsity sport and the club status makes all of the work Petersen and others do volunteer-based. The cost isn't cheap, as Petersen alluded to, so more than 20 kids participating at a school of Newberg's size is impressive.

Corin Hartnell – now a junior at Tigard High – started the program at Newberg with the help of her parents when she was just a freshman. Petersen has taken the reins of the program with the help of fellow coach Michael Stephens, a Newberg resident.

Wells and Ortloff's qualification for state – along with a second pair of skiers qualifying as alternates – gives Petersen hope that the program is going to become more competitive in the years to come. The Tigers graduate just two seniors from this year's team and have commitments from all of their current skiers to return to the team next season.

Given the challenging nature of the sport from both an athletic and financial perspective, that is a welcome sign for Petersen, who hopes to build the program up into a state championship contender on both sides.

"I saw a lot of improvement this year," he said. "I'd say there's a chance both the boys and girls teams make it to state next year, not just individuals. The girls team especially is going to be one to watch out for."

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