Lindy Vallier may be the only skier representing Grand Haven at the Division 1 ski finals on Monday at Boyne Mountain in Charlevoix, but it was a team effort that helped Vallier develop into the skier she is today.
Vallier has been transformed from a skier that was more concerned about coming down the hill in once piece during her freshman year, to one who has consistently become one of the more productive performers in the Greater Grand Rapids Ski Conference this winter.
“My freshman year, the coaches would tell me to go and I went,” she said with a grin. “Now, I actually know what I’m doing.”
“Lindy, as far as technique-wise, is very defined,” said Grand Haven head coach Anna Braymer. “She’s a very steady skier, meaning nothing throws her off. Overall, she has a very good, consistent body position. She’s also very reliable. She hasn’t missed a practice yet and is always eager to be there and learn something new to improve.”
Vallier placed 14th overall the regional meet at Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs on Feb. 14, but the Bucs’ senior had to nervously sweat out whether she actually clinched a spot to the finals.
“How it works is they take the top four individual girls after the top (three) teams make it,” she said. “When I found out, I was pretty speechless, but it was very exciting. We were all sitting down waiting to hear the results. It was just a lot of congratulations from my team and I was just trying to take it all in. It was a lot of fun.”
Vallier’s clinching performance marked a bright spot for the Bucs’ varsity girls ski team that has persevered through an inconsistent season. The team, which already had to replace several departed seniors from last season’s squad that qualified for state, lost their best returning skier months before the season started, when senior Brittany Olds suffered near-fatal injuries in an automobile accident on March 16. Olds made a remarkable recovery from a brain injury she suffered in the rollover crash on I-96 near Lowell that also included four of her classmates, and there was some optimism that she could return in time to compete for the Bucs this winter.
“Brittney didn’t ski for us, but she was always there, whether it was physically at our meets, or there with a phone call or words of encouragement,” Vallier said. “She always wanted to be a part of this team and we definitely welcomed that. We love her for that.”
Vallier said she believes Olds may make the trip to Charlevoix to lend support before and after Vallier’s runs in the slalom.
“One thing she’s mentioned to me, and really, she’s said it to the entire team, is don’t be afraid of the course,” Vallier said. “She said just go out there and compete. And it makes you think, if she can do it, I guess we can too.”
Vallier said she strives to participate in sports she can have fun with, and seeing the thrills her sister, Haley, enjoyed on the slopes, was enough motivation for her to join as well. The sisters were on the Bucs’ varsity team together when Haley was a senior and Lindy was a freshman.
“Really, I started skiing as soon as I could walk,” Lindy said.
Lindy also had a fun fall competing in cross country, where she helped the Bucs finish ninth overall in the team standings at the Division 1 state finals. Vallier was the fourth Bucs’ runner to cross the finish line at Michigan International Speedway, placing 111th overall.
“My parents have asked me that too (which has been more rewarding) and I can honestly say I love both sports,” she said.
Her strong running legs definitely provided a boost to her transition to the slopes.
“I think (running cross country) definitely helps with skiing,” she said. “Coming in, I was in top shape and that really helped with our preseason training.”
Vallier is entering Monday’s meet with a nothing-to-lose attitude, with her greatest concern simply making two clean runs.
“Wherever I place, I place,” she said.
But a few seconds later, Vallier’s competitive fire shined through, when she mentioned what an all-state (top 10) finish would mean.
“That would be amazing. I can only hope,” she said.