While you’re watching the likes of Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso representing the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a group of Mt. Lebanon kids are training for their alpine racing ski events at the State Championship competition in the next few weeks.
The Western region of the Pennsylvania Alpine Racing Association (PARA) is chock full of Mt. Lebanon kids, in several age groups. PARA is one division in the Eastern Region of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association. Students from ski clubs all over Pennsylvania (including Seven Springs and Hidden Valley) compete in qualifying races and the top skiers go to the state competition, held this year at Roundtop, Seven Springs and ELK Mountain resorts. Once at the state level, the skiers can be selected for the state team and then participate in invitational ski camps and races, or move on to regional competition or the Eastern Regional Junior Olympics.
In addition to the skiers pictured, Elijah Heidenreich qualified for states in the under-12 (U12) age group. Younger skiers Ezra Heidenreich and Deirdre Flaherty also scored highly in their age groups, although there is no state-level competition for their categories.
At States, the 12- and 14-year-old groups race in slalom and giant slalom events and the 16-year-olds race in those categories as well as the Super G category. The U12 and U14 also have skills and drills competitions.
The Toader family has four children, three of whom attend Mellon and have qualified to go to states (and the non-skier is only eight months old so she hasn’t even strapped on her skis yet.) Sisters Andreea and Michaela qualified in the U14 category and Andrew qualified in the U16 group, but will likely miss the competition due to a broken bone in his knee from an accident in training. Still, he has a positive outlook. “I like how skiing is relaxing and it’s really fun,” Andrew says. “I want to win, but that’s not all.”
The family, which includes mother Mioara Manole and dad, Florin Toader, heads to Seven Springs every weekend, not only to practice but because Florin is on the ski patrol there. The kids learned to ski when they were 14 months old.
Manole says each kid has four to five pairs of skis. Luckily, they can use hand-me-downs, and they often will buy skis from other racers as they grow or leave for college.
Mellon student Anna Klein has been skiing since she was 2-1/2 and started competing when she was about 6.
Skiing certainly runs in the Klein family. Anna’s father, Greg, was an NCAA champion skier at the University of Colorado. Anna’s brother, Dylan, was a PARA racer last year but now is racing U16 in Maine for Carrabassett Valley Academy (Bode Miller’s alma mater) and some of Dylan’s classmates are on the US Development Team. The Kleins are still waiting for his post-season results.
“I saw my brother’s races and I really got into it,” Anna says. She practices 10 hours a week during ski season. She leaves for Seven Springs after school on Fridays and trains that evening, followed by twice a day, two-hour practices on Saturdays and Sundays. To help with soreness and stay fit, Anna augments her skiing with yoga and karate.
At the top of the mountain, she continually reminds herself “I can do this. It doesn’t matter if I get a place. It just matters if I have fun.” She says she hasn’t decided if ski competitions will stay such a big part of her lifestyle but “it’s something fun to do. It gives you confidence and strength.”