As the book closes on the 2018-2019 winter sports season, it is safe to say that Ridgewood athletes on every level enjoyed many successes. However, one of the unsung stories of the winter was the success of the Ridgewood High School Alpine Ski Team. The girls team enjoyed a perfect season, finishing the regular season races with a record of 20-0, and capping it off with the slalom, giant slalom, and state titles. The boys team finished the regular season with a record of 21-5 and ended up finishing fourth at the state championship races. Individually, Ridgewood athletes flourished as well, with 10 skiers receiving All-League honors, an additional 4 receiving All-State honors and an invitation to the Eastern Regional High School Championships in Attitash, New Hampshire.
However, the Ridgewood racers started the season with a chip on their shoulders. In the three seasons since the formation of the team during the 2016-17 season, the girls team has won two state championships, last year being the outlier after finishing second to a strong Wayne Valley team. 3-time individual state champion and captain Kaitlin Devir did not hesitate when she spoke about the team’s motivation leading up to the season: “Oh yeah, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to take that trophy back. I felt as if we were supposed to be the frontrunners last year, but obviously, things didn’t end up going our way. Especially with this season being my last, I wanted to make sure that we ended up on top.” Devir’s goals and determination came to fruition after a perfect regular season heading into the state championships. “I felt good, the team felt good, and we just went out there and did what we’d been doing all season,” Devir said.
The state championships began on February 27th with the giant slalom race. The girls came in first with a time of 6:25.89, a full 13 seconds in front of second place Wayne Valley. The team was led by junior Jane McKinley, who came in 1st overall, followed by senior captain Kaitlin Devir in 2nd, freshman Sarah Marcovici in 16th, and junior Mollie Goetze finishing in 17th. On the boys side, the team finished 5th overall with a time of 6:20.92, but only 14 seconds away from first. The boys were led by junior Cole Sherman who finished 10th overall, followed by junior Eddie O’Keefe who finished 11th, junior PJ McKenna in 24th, and freshman Andrew Gioia in 34th.
The second day of the state championship occurred the following day with the slalom state championships. Unlike the giant slalom, the slalom races are much more technical and have a much larger margin for error, so it was imperative that both teams skied a clean race. Both teams did just that, with the girls team coming in first with a time of 4:58.73, and the boys coming in fourth with a time of 4:57.34. The girls team was led by Devir, who came in 1st, followed by McKinley in 7th, Goetze in 9th, and Marcovici in 11th. The boys team was led by Sherman, who came in 6th, followed by Gioia in 13th, O’Keefe in 23rd, and freshman Oliver Merrick in 34th. The first place finishes in both races for the girls clinched the state championship, while the combined time for the boys was good enough for 4th overall.
Despite this, the season was not quite over yet. The following day was the individual state Race of Champions, and Ridgewood had 10 racers given All-League honors and an invite to the race: Kaitlin Devir, Jane McKinley, junior Sophia Bergantino, junior Sarah Pilson, Mollie Goetze, junior Vanessa D’Angelo, Cole Sherman, Eddie O’Keefe, and PJ McKenna. The Ridgewood racers fared well in this race as well, with Devir and McKinley finishing 1st and 3rd respectively, and Sherman and O’Keefe finishing 11th and 13th respectively. Also at this race was the announcement of the All-State teams, and Ridgewood had 4 racers given spots on these teams. Both Devir and McKinley were given First Team honors, as Sherman and O’Keefe received Second Team and Third Team honors, respectively.
All 4 were also invited to represent the New Jersey State Ski Team as they traveled to Attitash New Hampshire for the Eastern Regional High School Championships. Devir looked to defend her title in the giant slalom but ended up in 3rd to Vermont’s Lena Sauter and Michigan’s Kaylee Richardson. McKinley finished in 29th, and O’Keefe and Sherman finished in 92nd and 95th respectively. In the slalom, Devir finished 11th, followed by McKinley in 79th. On the boys’ side, Sherman finished in 76th, and O’Keefe finished in 83rd.
Now that the season is over, though, the racers wasted no time looking forward to the next. Eddie O’Keefe expressed his excitement to improve on the results the next year, saying “The best part about this is that we get one last opportunity to prove ourselves next season. Our team has been on the rise, and I think that if we trust the process, the results will come.” However, until the snow starts to fall again, both teams will have to continue trusting the process until it’s time to strap on the skis once more.
Cole Sherman & Jane McKinley
Graphic: Eddie O’Keefe