The Ashland High boys snowboarding team overcame a host of obstacles to claim its fourth OISA state championship in seven years with a dominant performance over the weekend at Mount Bachelor.
Led by seniors Logan Kistler, Henry Krant and Hunter Williams and freshman Che Tratensek-Contor, the Grizzlies swept all three team competitions — banked slalom, slopestyle and halfpipe — to garner the most points possible, 3,000. Sandy was the runner-up with 2,100 points and defending champion West Linn placed third with 2,000.
On the girls side, Oregon City claimed first with 2,550 points, South Medford finished fourth with 1,525 and Ashland was ninth.
With Mount Ashland snowless and closed all winter the Grizz boys were forced to hit the road in order to qualify for state, traveling to Mount Hood, Hoodoo Ski Area in Sisters and Mount Bachelor in Bend. All told, said head coach Matt Faurot, the Grizzlies spent more than 50 hours on buses over the past three weeks.
But all that traveling paid off in a big way Saturday night at the Seventh Mountain Resort in Bend, where the Grizzlies, who already knew that they had placed first in Thursday's banked slalom, were named the winners in both the slopestyle and halfpipe, locking up a resounding team victory and bringing the Sato Cup back to Ashland.
"You just really feel really good for the kids when they announce their school," said Faurot, who also led the AHS boys to state titles in 2008, 2009 and 2012. "And being such a difficult year, there was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of confusion, early mornings and late nights. And this group of kids just rode their love of snowboarding to the finish line. For me, it was just a sense of gratitude for being able to work with such an amazing group of kids."
Ashland started the week with a bang Thursday in the banked slalom. Kistler finished his second run in 34.43 seconds, good enough for third place, and Williams clocked in at 34.75 for fifth. Krant finished 22nd and senior Conner Stanek 25th to round out a strong top four for the Grizzlies. That added up to 1,468 team points, just enough to outdistance second-place Sandy (1,410) and grab the early momentum.
The Grizzlies kept it going in the slopestyle competition Friday, when Tratensek-Contor led four Grizzlies who scored 64 points or more to claim another team title. Tratensek-Contor impressed the three judges well enough to garner a team-high score of 70, followed by Kistler (66), Williams (65) and Krant (64). That was enough for a solid first-place total of 265, followed by Tualatin (251) and Sandy (233).
"That was one of those events that I was mildly surprised to see us do so well," Faurot said. "With Mount Ashland being closed we had very minimal training on those large jumps. It just amazes me that these boys can pull it together in a couple days and go on their will and previous experience. They only went to Mount Bachelor a handful of times, but it doesn't seem to affect them."
Although they didn't know it, the Grizzlies' success in the slopestyle all but locked up the Sato Cup, but they made the final gap even wider with Saturday's performance in the halfpipe. Kistler led the team in the judged event with an eighth-place showing (187 points), followed by Krant (10th, 175), Williams (14th, 159) and Tratensek-Contor (18th, 152). Those 673 points easily bested second-place West Linn (613) and clinched the Grizzlies' three-for-three showing in the team events.
In the individual snowboard cross, a race down the mountain, Kistler advanced through three elimination rounds before placing third in the final.
The South Medford girls also had a successful weekend at Mount Bachelor, taking second in the slopestyle en route to their fourth-place team showing. Seniors Rachel Lightner placed fifth and Alex Tinsley sixth to lead the way.
South's Casey Tratz placed second in the boys halfpipe.
Lightner's impressive performance capped a comeback from a spine injury she suffered at last year's state meet, according to Panthers coach Paul Spillan Jr.
"She's always worked really hard for everything that she's done," Spillan said of Lightner. "She's one of the more dedicated girls that I've seen in the valley. She's fearless, really has a lot of drive. She rides with these other boys who are always putting the pedal to the medal and she doesn't want to get left behind."
Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 and firstname.lastname@example.org.