“We did really well in the giant slalom last year, and if we had done that well in the slalom, we would have made it,” said Buccaneers’ junior Brittany Olds. “Instead, we finished fourth.”
Only the top three teams from each regional earn a trip to the state finals.
“So that was our goal this year is to make it to state as a team,” explained Olds, who went individually as a sophomore last winter. She placed seventh in the giant slalom and 11th in the slalom at the state meet.
In order to reach the finals, the Bucs will have to hold off challenges from a strong field, including a trio of traditional powers from up north.
“The favorites are Marquette, Traverse City Central, Traverse City West and Grand Haven,” said Bucs’ coach Tim Graham. “In order for Grand Haven to go on as a team, we’ve got to knock off one of those three. We’ve done it before, but it’s been a while.
“It’s tough skiing up in Traverse City’s back yard. They ski at Schuss Mountain, Shanty Creek all year. They train there. But you never know. I don’t know what their teams are like this year. We’re just hoping for the best.”
Grand Haven’s boys last made the ski finals in 2009, placing seventh. The girls’ team hasn’t qualified for the finals in over a decade, although in 2007, a trio of Buccaneers’ girls, including Brittany Olds’ sister, Marina, made it through to the finals.
The Bucs warmed up for the regional meet by winning the Greater Grand Rapids Area Ski Conference crown for the fourth consecutive year. However, their depth took a serious hit when their No. 2 skier, Hannah Rymal, was hurt in a crash at Cannonsburg on Jan. 24.
Graham said Rymal has been working her way back and is encouraged by her progress.
“Hannah skied out West last week and seems to be back in shape and ready to go, so we’re excited about that,” Graham said.
This winter, Olds has upped her expectations and hopes to finish in the top five in the state. She certainly has the experience needed to compete on the biggest stage.
“I’ve been skiing since I was 2,” said Olds, who began competing on the slopes at age 5. “We have a place up at Boyne and we go up there every weekend.”
Skiing has always been Olds’ passion, but she actually tired of skiing competitively when she was 10.
“I didn’t like ski racing that much,” she said. “It was kind of frustrating, but once I got better at it, I had more fun.”
She started racing with the Boyne Fliers, then moved up to the Boyne Race team. She’s skied in several competitive circuits across the state and also makes trips out West to ski at least once a year.
“It’s a lot of training, but I’ve made a lot of friends,” Olds said.
The one place she had never skied prior to joining the GHHS ski team was the Ski Bowl at Mulligan’s Hollow.
“I had actually never been here before the first practice of my freshman year,” she said with a laugh.
Olds is very familiar with this year’s regional site, Schuss Mountain.
“I’m not a huge fan of Schuss, but it’s good for our team because it’s a little flatter,” Olds said.
The teams that advance through Thursday’s regional meet will converge on Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs for the Division 1 state meet on Feb. 27.