South Tahoe Nordic teams enjoy successful seasons

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — South Tahoe’s Nordic teams received the right amount of snow for a full schedule of races, finished high in the league standings and capped the season with strong performances in the state championships.

The snow came early, and it was enough to last through January and February, the meat of the schedule.

Enough with a below average snowpack, the California-Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation did not cancel any meets for too little, or too much, snow.

After hosting a race in December and competing in the Foothill Classic in early January, the Vikings competed in four more league races.

A highlight of the season included a trip to the Mammoth Mountain area for a classic stride race on the trails at Tamarack Cross Country Center.

League competition concluded on Valentine’s day with a freestyle race at North Tahoe High School.

The boys and girls each finished third in the league standings out of nine teams.

The season came to a close in the CNISSF State Championships, Feb. 22, where the Vikings raced against 60 other competitors at Soda Springs, near Donner Summit. Sugar Bowl Academy hosted the event on the trails at Royal Gorge.

South Tahoe was well represented with five boys and four girls in their respective competitions.

The course was 3.3 kilometers in length and skiers had to complete two laps in two different styles. Skiers began with a mass start and the first lap was classic (stride) format. After the first lap, skiers headed into an exchange area where they transition into freestyle (skate) gear, and then re-enter the course.

The Viking boys finished in fourth and were led by Matteus Sokulsky who completed the two laps in 18 minutes, 40 seconds to finish in 12th place out of 42 competitors.

Also for South Tahoe, Lachlan Bray crossed the line second for the team, and in 16th overall (21:04), Milo King was 18th (21:41), Rhys Davies was 29th (24:17), Max Menke ws 30th (24:33), Andre Albanese 31st (24:55), Sam Evans 35th (26:49) and Aaron Moreno was 40th (30:30).

South Tahoe head coach Mark Hoefer is excited because his entire group could be back next season.

“All of these skiers will be around for at least two more years, so I am looking forward to working with them and watching them get stronger each year,” Hoefer said.

Sugar Bowl’s Bjorn Halvorsen won the race in 16:17 and North Tahoe claimed the team title.

The Lady Vikings, led by senior Melanie Maher, earned third place.

Maher capped off her four years of high school skiing by capturing 13th place in 27:35.

She was followed by freshman teammate Emma Waskiewicz who grabbed 16th in 28:15, senior Eliana Carney was 17th in 30:36 and Sierra Dahl was 18th in 30:43.

North Tahoe’s Kili Lehmkuhl made it look easy in winning the individual title and Truckee won the girls’ team title.

“I have really enjoyed working with the girls team this year,” Hoefer said. “But I am sad to see the seniors race their last high school race.”

Local residents among hundreds stuck in Honduras

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Six local residents are among several hundred United States citizens stranded in Honduras after the country closed its borders to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Bill and Ally Belair of Minden, Nev., Brian and Kim Cohen and Aaron and Laura Maffitt, of South Lake Tahoe, have been in Honduras, at a resort on the island of Roatan, for about two weeks and have no idea when they are getting home.

“Everything has been shut down — the borders, airlines, we can’t leave the resort — and they keep telling us not to worry, but all the flights are canceled,” Bill Belair told the Tribune. 

Belair lived with his wife, Ally, in South Lake Tahoe for 20 years before moving out of the basin.

“We’re all just anxious,” said Brian Cohen in an email. 

He and his wife own Overland Meat and Seafood Company in South Lake Tahoe. Cohen said the crew is struggling to run the business effectively in their absence since much has changed in the last 10-12 days with the governor closing all non-essential businesses and ordering people to stay home unless it’s essential.

“We’re desperately trying to get back to Overland,” Cohen said. “Every time we see an available flight we book it, only to find out the airline canceled it. We flew here on Avianca which cancelled our return. (We) rebooked on American for Saturday, March 28, which was cancelled. Now we’re rebooked on United for Monday, March 30. Fingers crossed.”

The six locals are among a group of 10, two are from Napa and the other pair are from Alabama, who went to Honduras 12 days ago to vacation and scuba dive in the warm Caribbean water.

“The virus when we left, wasn’t how it is now,” Bill Belair said, and also said there are up to 1,000 US citizens stranded. 

Since they left, Covid-19 has swept across the world and into the United States where the entire country is fighting the spread.

Honduras announced it would close its borders for seven days starting last week, at 11:59 p.m. March 15, and hasn’t re-opened as of Sunday. Even if the borders open, there is no guarantee flights will be available to the United States.

Martial law is in effect for the entire country and Belair said the group was told by the Honduran Navy on Friday to exit the ocean.

“The Honduran Navy came and told us to get out of the water and we also saw some kids playing in the water and they went over there with machine guns in hand and told them to get out,” Belair said.

The group remains at the resort at a discounted rate of $200 a night and said they are being treated well.

Winter storm a massive boost for Sierra snowpack

One storm does not make a “Miracle March” but what an impact the last few days have had on the Sierra snowpack.

Continuous snow at Lake Tahoe since Saturday morning has added 13% to the snowpack, according to Jeff Anderson, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Nevada.

“To gain back that amount this time of year is really hard,” Anderson told the Tribune.

The snowpack started the weekend at 43% at the Mount Rose Snotel site and was at 56% to end the weekend, not counting the several inches up to a foot of snow that fell on Monday.

Monday’s snow will likely add a couple more percentage points.

The snow water content from the latest storm is 3.3 inches through Sunday, about three times the average gain for the month which is 1.2 inches. The typical gain for January and February is six inches.

Before this storm, the snowline was creeping up the mountains at Lake Tahoe at a fast pace. 

“The snowpack was melting rapidly, even at the higher levels,” Anderson said. “This storm has really pushed that back for awhile.”

While the snowpack is in much better standing than it was a few days ago, it’s still a long ways from a miracle, like 2018.

Two years ago, the Tahoe snowpack was at 35% entering March and increased a whopping 44%, up to 79%.

That year there were a few storms like the one passing through that completely buried Lake Tahoe for three straight weeks.

The snow is expected to continue through Monday night into Tuesday and the weather pattern remains unsettled for the rest of the week with snow showers expected.

Valosek, Gottlieb, Knight earn All-State for Incline

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Highlanders may not have finished the basketball season like they wanted, but the postseason awards can be considered a celebration of their championship season that ended one game short of back-to-back state titles.

Incline went undefeated on its way to winning the Northern League, swept through the Northern Regional and were led on the journey by the best class 2A player in the state, TT Valosek.

The super sophomore earned Co-Most Valuable Player at the state tournament and was also the solo winner of the league’s MVP award.

Seniors Finn Gottlieb and Tyler Knight earned All-State honors as three of the five Incline starters received top awards.

Valosek, a guard, averaged 20 points, seven assists and just over four rebounds per game. He scored from long range. He scored driving to the rim. He scored a lot and teams had no answer all season.

“TT was hands down the best player in the state this year,” said Incline head coach Tim Kelly. “Nobody could stop him.”

If Valosek wasn’t on the team, we might be talking about how Gottlieb might be the best player in the state.

The senior transfer from the east coast averaged 18 points, five rebounds and three assists per game. He could also dial it up from deep as well as drive to the cup.

The Valosek-Gottlieb one-two punch was too tough for anyone to stop during the season.

“Finn, I’m really proud of how he played this season,” Kelly said. “With transferring across the country and dealing with other stuff during the season, he’s just a great kid.”

Knight, a dead-eye from the 3-point line and a tough defender due to his length, averaged about 11 points per game and was second to Gottlieb with 3-pointers made in the regular season. He hit more 3s (51) than 2-point shots (38).

“Tyler showed at state that he has much more game than shooting the ball,” Kelly said.

As happy as Kelly was for those three players, he was just as disappointed that his two other starters, Brad Rye and Brody Thralls, weren’t named All-State.

The two didn’t score in double digits per game, but probably could have if needed. They were the team’s best defenders and averaged about seven steals per game between them.

“It’s a shame because we had the best five players on the floor to start any game we played this year,” Kelly said. “But overall, these awards, it’s a celebration of how good we were this year. One loss no matter how heartbreaking doesn’t ruin what we accomplished this year.”

Stranzl, Tippins earn All-State for Lady Highlanders

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Incline Lady Highlanders ran through the Northern League, the northern regional tournament, won their last 17 games and finished with a state championship.

The postseason awards have followed, although with how the Highlanders dominated, it seems they could have received more.

Sophomores Elisabeth Stranzl and Eiley Tippins each earned first team-All-State honors and were also first team All-Northern League. Fellow sophomore Brooke Gutheil earned second team All-League and second team All-State.

And all three could have received higher awards.

Stranzl was the league’s top scorer at 12.6 points per game with Tippins right behind at 12.2, but Hailee Keats from Yerington was awarded Offensive Player of the Year.

Stranzl, a second-year varsity starter, hit 47 3-pointers, more than double the next best output in the league and also averaged team highs in assists (3.7) and steals (3.7) per game.

“Liz should have been offensive MVP no doubt about it,” said Incline head coach Indra Winquest. “I’ll take Liz any day. She was keyed on all year by other teams, but that girl did everything she could to get us wins. For a girl with that size disadvantage, she just used her skills and was amazing.”

Tippins led the league in rebounding at 9.4 per game and was also second in blocks with 2.3 per contest.

“The southern teams got to see Eiley at state and she was playing really strong at the end of the year,” Winquest said. “Eiley has the size advantage, the energy and determination.”

Eva Kingston, of White Pine, won the Most Valuable Player award, and that’s hard to argue. Without the third-leading scorer in league this year, White Pine doesn’t reach the state championship game where it lost to Incline.

“I was OK with Kingston getting MVP, she deserved it in a sense, without her they probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs,” Winquest said. “Everybody knows I’ve got three girls who could’ve been MVP of the league.”

Winquest was thrilled with his starting five this year and wished that everybody could have received recognition.

Gutheil blocked over 80 shots this season, over 20 more than the next best total from her teammate Tippins. She also made just under three steals per game, but Presley Burrows, of Pershing County, was named Defensive Player of the Year.

Gutheil also averaged eight points and grabbed 8.5 rebounds per game.

“Brooke was the calming force on this team,” Winquest said. “She could have definitely won defensive player but it’s hard getting that many players from one team All-League.”

Senior Madison Corneil earned second team All-League and averaged 7.7 points per game, a co-team high 3.7 assists and 3.2 steals.

Senior Sami Giangreco earned honorable mention. She averaged 5.1 points per game and was the league’s third best 3-point shooter, but her coach, Indra Winquest, raved all year about her defense and versatility.

“My biggest disappointment was not being able to get Maddie All-League,” Winquest. “She was the MVP of our team this year with her leadership and composure. And Sami, we just wouldn’t have won a state title without those two seniors.”

Winquest was named Coach of the Year in the Northern League. In his seven years, he has put together an impressive overall record of 135-46 and has never suffered through a losing season. He has won 20 games in five of seven years.

His teams have won the league championship in four of seven years.

Incline finished the season 24-3, including 15-1 in league with their lone loss to former two-time defending state champ White Pine.

“To be voted the top coach was humbling, but it’s all about the girls,” Winquest said. “The first time I won it, I thought it was cool, but now, all credit goes to the girls.”