Decker qualifies for nationals
WILMINGTON – Saranac Lake’s Cecily Decker was the top girls skier in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Under-16 Eastern Championships at Whiteface Mountain that concluded Monday.
Decker, who skis for New York Ski Educational Foundation’s Whiteface Mountain club, earned the top seed after picking up two gold medals and two silvers during four days of racing that started Thursday. She will now join seven other girls from the east in the U16 national championships in Park City, Utah. The races start March 29 and go on for a week.
Decker, who has excelled all season, started off the meet on Thursday with a win in the super-G, finishing with a final time of 54.03 seconds as she raced down Thruway and Draper’s Drop. She beat Ellie Curtis of the Green Mountain Valley School in Waitsfield, Vt., by .74 of a second. Anna Foley of the Black and Blue Trail Smashers in Waterville Valley, N.H., placed third in 54.86.
Fourth place went to Beatrix Lever with a time of 55.19. Lever has been a NYSEF skier since she was young. She lives in Montreal most of the year but her family also has a house in Wilmington. She was the fourth best girls skier overall in the Eastern Championships.
Lever and Decker, who have a friendly rivalry, have been battling all season long, often trading off who gets first place.
“She’s an amazing skier,” Decker said of Lever. “We’re really good friends because we both ski out of here at Whiteface, and we’re always competing against each other and training and racing. And we’re both really supportive of each other, so that helps a lot.”
On Friday, Lever topped Decker with a time of 53.77 seconds. Decker finished in 54.17 for second place. Ellie Curtis of Green Mountain Valley School came in third in 54.18.
The girls didn’t race Saturday, but they returned to action Sunday as Decker and Lever once again showed their prowess. This time Decker smoked the competition in the giant slalom, finishing first with a combined time of 1:58.83 over two runs. She beat Olivia Gerrard of Burke Mountain Academy in northern Vermont by nearly three seconds. Gerrard finished in 2:01.68. Lever came in third with a time of 2:02.28.
“I had a good first run,” Decker said. “I didn’t have any mistakes. It was just smooth. The second run, I just kind of ran into some trouble coming down the pitch, but I still ended up second for the run and first overall.”
She finished that first run in 57.07 and the second in 1:01.76.
On Monday, Decker finished second in the slalom with a two-run combined time of 1:34.67. Foley took first place with a time of 1:34.51. Anna Bruce of the Burke Mountain Academy came in third in 1:36.31 and Lever took fourth in 1:36.50.
Decker and her NYSEF coach David Smith credited her off-season training regime with helping her succeed this year.
“She committed herself over the last year to improving her physical fitness and that paid off a lot,” Smith said. “And she’s just got some natural ability, so when you combine the two – the work ethic and the ability together – it works (great).”
This will be Decker’s second time at nationals. She also went two years ago. Last year, she didn’t make it in part because she had a back injury that slowed her down. She thinks having the experience of competing in nationals should help her this time around.
“I was young. I don’t think I thought as clearly as I do now, and now I kind of know more about what I have to do in order to have a good run,” she said. “I’m going to go in. I’m not going to think about results, so I’m just going to try to ski my best and hope for the best.”
As for Lever, she’s going to compete in the Can-Am races at Mount Tremblant that start March 20. She said she was very happy with her performance during the past few days.
“I had set some goals for myself coming into this race, and I did achieve those goals, so I was very happy,” she said. “My goal was to have a first-place finish in one of the super-G events, and for the GS I wanted to be in the top three, and for the slalom I wanted to be in the top five.”