The result was surprising. Even to Annie Guerette.
Self-admittingly, Guerette is a better in giant slalom than slalom.
But on Feb. 28, Guerette, a Winthrop junior, edged the competition in the event at the perfect time, the Class C state ski championships. With runs of 36:55 and 35.71, Guerette finished with a total time of 1:12.3, 0.4 seconds faster than second place finisher Sarah Klein of Mountain Valley.
“I really wasn’t expecting to win, because I’m better at (giant slalom) than I am slalom,” Guerette said. “Somehow I pulled off a first. It didn’t really hit me (winning a state title) until I was on my way home.”
Guerette almost swept both events, finishing 0.2 seconds behind Klein in the giant slalom, settling for second place. For her production at the state meet, Guerette is the Kennebec Journal Girls Alpine Skier of the Year.
Winthrop coach Tim Lavallee said Guerette improved her performance throughout the season.
“Her season was one of continual improvement,” Lavallee said. “A lot of focus was on her technical skiing. She had a lot of deficiencies in her technical skiiing early in the season. She worked extremely hard to improve those things. She accepted that coaching and continually improved throughout the season. Obviously for her, she peaked at the right time. She couldn’t have peaked at a better time than when she did.”
Lavallee, a former US Ski Team coach, took over as head coach at Winthrop this season and immediately changed the normal practice routine. Lavallee made sure the Ramblers had plenty of practice time, either on the weekends at Black Mountain in Rumford or getting a glance at top competition by training with the Maranacook and Mountain Valley Alpine teams.
“We (Alec) Daigle, (Matt) Delmar, (Kelby) Mace, we had the kids from Mountain Valley,” Lavallee said. “You put these kids in an environment where there are other really good kids to train with, they’re going to get better. We subsidized that whole thing with afternoon training — whenever we could — at the Kents Hill Alpine Training Center. These kids had 50 days on snow, which in the past, that just hasn’t happened there. My saying is, skiing is cumulative. The more time you spend on snow, the better you’re going to get.”
Guerette credits training with the Maranacook and Mountain Valley teams as a major factor in having success at states.
“It definitely (helps),” Guerette said. “You’re all pushing each other and you can watch their form. There were two other really good girl skiers from Mountain Valley, it was really great to work with them all season, too.”
Along with her work ethic, Lavallee said Guerette has a natural skill that other high school skiers don’t have.
“She has a natural ability to let the skis run down the hill,” Lavallee said. “Most high school kids, they’re fighting the hill all the time. They find little ways to put the brakes on despite the overturn. Annie has this innate ability to find the fault line and let the skis goes. That’s what made her really good this winter.”
With her success this season, Guerette has one more season to improve. She hopes to have the same success next season, as well as success at the New England Ski Championships. Guerette qualified this season for the first time for New Englands.
“It was pretty scary,” Guerette said. “There was a lot of competition. It’s hard competing against 120 of the best girls. It’s kind of a reality check, actually.”
Lavallee believes Guerette can improve from her performance this year.
“I expect better,” Lavallee said. “She can build on what she did this year and take it with her and do some better things.”
Dave Dyer — 621-5639