Junior Olympics Next Step for Local Ski Racers

By Beacon Staff

Four years ago Madeline Williams was clocked at 42 miles per hour on her skis. Now she’s 15 years old and trying to make it to the Junior Olympics. Out of curiosity’s sake, she wouldn’t mind if someone brought the radar gun up to Whitefish Mountain Resort again.

“I’m guessing I’m a little faster now,” said Williams, a freshman at Seeley-Swan High School and a member of the Whitefish Mountain Resort ski team.

Williams is one of a half dozen or so local kids from the resort’s ski team that will be participating in this weekend’s Northern Division Junior Olympic Qualifier Alpine Races. The races begin on Saturday at 10 a.m. and run through Monday at Whitefish Mountain Resort and are sanctioned by the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA).

More than 120 skiers are expected to participate in the qualifier, which will feature slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom and downhill, the fastest event of them all. For Williams and teammate Michela Millette, downhill is the most nerve-racking yet invigorating race. They will be among the youngest downhill participants.

“In downhill, there’s some jumps and it’s just crazy fast,” said Millette, a freshman at Whitefish High School who qualified for the Junior Olympics last year.

And crazy fast is a good thing. For serious alpine racers like Millette and Williams, and the other 100-plus participants at this weekend’s event, speed is the point. Obviously it’s what wins races, but it’s also the crux of their desire to put so much work into the sport.

“It’s kind of the thrill,” Williams said.

The Whitefish Mountain Resort ski team is designed to train young skiers to become elite racers. Roy Loman, the team’s coach, said this year there are 25 kids ranging in age from 8 to 17. They train multiple times per week.

The hope is that some of the racers will go on to the U.S. National Ski Team or participate in other prestigious races throughout the nation, Canada and Europe. Whitefish, Loman said, has a history of good skiers, most notably Tommy Moe, the Olympic gold medal-winning alpine racer.

“The kids are doing a great job right now,” Loman said.

The young skiers will race all three days and by the end of the weekend they will know if they qualify to move on based on points. Williams figures she needs to get in the top three a couple of times to ensure a spot in the Junior Olympics championship series, which is held in March.

Williams and Millette said they have been skiing since they were 2 years old. Williams has been on the team for two years. This is Millette’s fourth year. Both of Millette’s parents are ski instructors, so she said skiing has “kind of been our thing.”

Millette expects family and friends to be watching, which makes her more excited than nervous. She said it’s a special opportunity to be able to race for a spot in the Junior Olympics in her hometown.

“It’s awesome,” she said.