Wilsonville skiers ready for state race
Wilsonville skiers Cailin Gahan and Kiera Bertell have waited their turn.
Both seniors, Gahan has finished second the past two years in the giant slalom at the OISRA Alpine State Championships, while Bertell placed second in the slalom as a sophomore and then fifth last year with a dislocated shoulder.
"The girl that has been in front of me has been a senior," Gahan said. "It's my time to win it."
The 2020 state race is March 4-6 at Mount Ashland.
This winter, Gahan and Bertell both had strong seasons in the Three Rivers Ski League.
Through six races, Gahan and Bertell finished first and second, respectively, in the individual standings.
"It's really fun because we get to push each other," Gahan said.
Gahan won the giant slalom, while Gahan and Bertell tied for first in the slalom.
"GS is definitely my favorite," Gahan said. "I love the speed and the thrill of it. I'm definitely working on loving slalom more."
Bertell has always enjoyed slalom more.
"I'm much more of a technical skier," she said. "With GS, I have a hard time. I overturn a little bit. I think too much on a GS course, and there's too much time on a GS course. I slow myself down."
The weather has not been as cooperative this year with two races postponed and even more practices canceled.
"I can't really remember a time when we had this many races canceled," Bertell said.
Gahan and Bertell both began skiing as 5-year-old Mighty Mites on the same Mt. Hood Race Team.
"I kind of knew how to ski, but racing is where it really clicked," Gahan said. "It (Mighty Mites) was definitely low key. It was all about learning the basics. You wouldn't even really know what you were doing, but you had fun."
Bertell, who would carpool with Gahan to Mount Hood, had a similar experience.
"It was all about having fun," Bertell said. "You skied around the gates and hoped you were going the right way."
Around the third grade, Bertell and Gahan started competing in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard circuit, which meant practicing Wednesday and Thursday nights at Mount Hood and then racing on the weekends.
Both girls remained with club teams through their freshman year of high school, before switching to the Wilsonville high school team as sophomores.'
"I decided I wanted to do what was going to be fun," Gahan said. "Really the goal of high school racing is to have as much fun as possible, and make it as competitive as you want or as uncompetitive as you want."
The Wilsonville team practices just once a week on Thursday nights at Mt. Hood Meadows.
"It makes it difficult, but when you're up there, you spend the time," Gahan said. "We have gates on the ground, and we're just constantly practicing and getting ready for races and really focusing on our technique."
The Wildcats have four girls on this year's team — Gahan, Bertell, Noelle Schaaf and Ashlee Piovenelli.
"It just makes it more fun if you can have that team aspect to it, if you're competing as a team rather than just competing as yourself," Gahan said. "We love to have anybody. We're always trying to build the team."
Wilsonville finished third in the final league standings behind Lakeridge and Lincoln.
Gahan and Bertell said they have never skied at Mount Ashland, home of this year's state race.
Along with Lakeridge and Lincoln, Summit and Hood River Valley are typically tough competitors.
"Any team can come out and surprise," Gahan said. "That's the fun thing about it. One racer could not finish and all of a sudden it's anyone's game."
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