Four junior Vikings raced down Whistler's slopes against hundreds for the Ski and Snowboard Provincial Championship from March 1 to 3.
Grade 9 student Torin Chapman, at his first appearance on the provincial stage, finished with a combined time of two minutes 28.74 seconds.
"Look for good things to come from Torin as he was only 28 seconds off the provincial champion, who is in Grade 12," said Nechako Valley Secondary's ski and snowboard team coach Tyler Clark. "Well done, Torin."
The annual championship featured skiing on the first day, snowboarding on the second, and then giant slalom terrain on the third, when athletes raced through a ski cross-style course of banked turns and jumps.
Chapman competed as part of a zone team consisted of three other Vanderhoof students — Cale Toth, Ethan Bradley, Casey Elliott — and two Prince Geroge students from College Heights Secondary, and first qualified after racing in the zone championships in Smithers in February. Grade 10 student Justin Van Andel was only one-tenth of a second behind the qualifying time.
The 19-student team, supported by assistant coach Jeff Bennett, has shown much improvement with basic technique this year, with 18 days of training on home-base Hudson Bay Mountain, Clark said. This is the first year that the team did not travel to different ski hills each time for training.
Funding was provided by the parent advisory council for equipment waxing and from the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako for setting up realistic ski courses for drills.
"The team ranged from grades 7 to 12, with Grade 7 students training in the same course as older students," Clarks said, adding that the added practice led to increased confidence. "Some began with not much skill, but are now little ski demons racing down the hill."
Training involves balance and coordination skills, tactical training in navigating turns, technical studies on course map, and evaluating physical and psychological aspects to determine whether they are competition-ready. The coaches also ensured that the team's equipment are appropriate for competition.
Since the team's return to competition three years ago, at least one Viking qualified for provincials every year, Clark said. Last year, a team of boys skiers qualified by placing third during zone championships, moving onto the provincial tournament in Fernie.
"Qualifying for provincials is a good indication of how we're doing," he said. "Because the team is so young, at its growth and development stage, by the time they hit senior years, we can expect to hit consistently provincials."
The team is supported by parent sponsor Roberta Toth, who assisted with grant applications, ski hill communications, fundraising, accommodation booking, and other administrative work.