Prep Alpine skiing: Duluth East’s Veronica McHenry eyes her ‘time to shine’
The Greyhounds girls have won each of their three meets so far this season, but Cloquet-Esko-Carlton is nipping at their heels for the Section 7A title.
SUPERIOR — Despite the start date in mid-January, the Duluth Public Schools Martin Luther King Invite ski meet Monday at Mont du Lac Resort featured rain and fog, but it certainly wasn’t enough to stop the Greyhounds’ Veronica McHenry.
McHenry finished her two runs down the course with a combined time of 1 minute, 2.91 seconds to take first place at the meet and lead the East to a team victory as well.
“It’s not the best conditions out there today,” McHenry said. “Wet snow is never fun — you slip, it’s sticky, it’s slow — but everyone’s faced with those conditions and you just have to do your best with it. You’re never going to get perfect conditions.”
McHenry has been to the state ski meet the past three years, but was always looking up at teammate Lauren Carlson. Carlson was the individual state champion in 2022 with McHenry finishing 10th, a little more than 3 seconds behind Carlson’s combined time of 1:18.14.
Now a senior, McHenry is looking to make a mark of her own.
“It’s my last time to prove that I’m a good skier,” she said. “Last year, my teammate won state and, obviously, that was good for our entire team and she was a huge role model for me. But now after she’s graduated, I feel like it’s my time to shine…I want to prove that I’ve got what it takes. I’ve been competing with these girls a lot and there’s some tough competitors out there, but I just push myself to the very limit and I know that I can do it.”
Duluth East coach Andrea Hendricks said McHenry’s consistency and her willingness to push herself is a big part of why McHenry could follow in Carlson’s footsteps.
“Veronica gives it her all every time — she really thinks about the course and what’s ahead of her,” Hendricks said. “She’s very analytical and strong, so I think that’s what has put her in that top position.”
‘Some tough competitors’
That’s not to say that McHenry’s road to the state meet will be easy.
In fact, while the Greyhounds put four skiers in the top 10 Monday at Mont du Lac, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton put three skiers in the top six, led by Emily Regas in second with a time of 1:04.34.
Regas was second at the MLK meet — behind Carlson — in 2022, as well, but coach Ryan Zimny thinks she is skiing a little more confidently in 2023.
“She’s definitely knocking on the door,” Zimny said. “She’s skiing mentally a lot stronger than the past couple years, which makes a big difference. She broke a pair of poles on Friday at practice and she was using an older pair that were too short today. Then she broke one of those on her second run, but still was able to finish really strong on one pole. Just to hold it together through that — it’s been fun to see.”
The Lumberjacks could have taken the girls team title Monday, if not for a crash by Madysen Watters. Nadia and Teagan Tessier finished fifth and sixth, respectively, for CEC, but a fall by Watters proved costly.
Watters was actually a hundredth of a second faster than Teagan Tessier on the first run, but fell on the second run. The spill took her out of the top 10 and gave the Greyhounds the opening they needed for a team win.
Zimny thinks the CEC girls will be “in the mix” for a chance to advance to the state meet next month, but with a small team every skier matters, as they found out today.
“It’s a good group of girls,” Zimny said. “They’re all motivated, they’re all working hard, but ski racing is tough. If everybody skis to their ability, you’re great, but it’s always right on the edge and somebody can go down at any time. If you’re crashing in this sport, you’re pretty much out of it.”
Looking for that ‘snap’
While the conditions weren’t great Monday, McHenry knows what she is looking for on the hill, rain or shine.
“When you are skiing your fastest, every turn that you make, you’re going to be pushing so hard that you’re going to feel a snap on your ski,” McHenry said. “It’s almost like you’re bouncing. If you’re skiing really well, especially in slalom, you’re moving your feet so quickly you’re going to feel a little bounce at every turn — that’s how you know you’re going really fast.”
McHenry says while the state meet is exciting, the pressure for her is more intense at the section meet.
“State is your time to go as hard as you can,” she said. “At sections there’s more pressure because if you don’t finish then you don’t get the chance to go to state. I want to make sure I’m in a good mindset for sections, but I want to make sure my team is in a good mindset too. I’m not thinking about this like ‘I want to make it by myself.’ I want to bring the rest of the girls with me.”
McHenry has won each of the three races she’s run this season, but the Greyhounds girls have also won as a team, something Hendricks focuses on as a coach.
“The reason a lot of these girls are joining the high school team is so they can be part of that team sport,” Hendricks said. “I think that’s really special — their number one goal is to get that team plaque, which the girls have done three out of three times.”
Duluth East and CEC will both ski again at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Mont du Lac.