Medora Rylee was a hockey player, but was looking for something different when she arrived at Chaska High School as a freshman. So she took up downhill skiing and by the winter season she was racing down the hill for the Chaska/Chanhassen co-op.
Four years later, the final races ahead of her, she's happy she joined the Alpine team.
"I didn't even know how to ski as a freshman. I learned how to ski pretty quickly, but I remember being so tentative. I couldn't hit any gates. I definitely have gotten a lot better. Now I'm falling out of my skis because I'm pushing too hard," Rylee said.
While the Chaska/Chanhassen boys team has sent skiers to the state meet, won Metro West Conference championships, the girls team has been more recreational than competitive.
Rylee, though, sees that changing. Sophomore Fantaye Gilbertson has the potential to be a state qualifier this year and over the next few years. The varsity team also has multiple underclassmen that making the same strides Rylee did years ago.
"My main goal is to help out the younger kids and make their experience fun. I think we all want to develop our team into a good ski program. We've always had a good boys program, but we can get there with the girls. Fantaye is amazing. I'm very excited to see where she how far she will go," Rylee said.
Rylee, who will play softball at St. Olaf College in Northfield next year, was fourth overall at a Metro West Conference event at Buck Hill on Feb. 8.
She had run times of 26.71 and 27.42 seconds. Gilbertson had the team's fastest run of 24.48.
On Feb. 19 at Buck Hill, Rylee was fifth overall, putting down the fourth-fastest first run of 25.84, following up with a 28.15 for a combined time of 53.99.
Teammates Megan Quinn (59.61/11th), Eva Vermeij (1:02.73/14th), Julia Westin (1:02.91/15th), Carolyn Powell (1:04.67/16th), and Rachel Flannery (1:06.70/17th) were other top Storm Hawk finishers.
Junior Jared Buckley has led the boys pack for Chaska/Chanhassen, finishing first on Feb. 19 (45.76) and second on Feb. 8 (46.18).
Underclassmen Parker Dussault (48.76) and Fred Stolz (50.11) were top-10 finishers on Feb. 8 with Thijs Vermeij claiming the 10th position on Feb. 19 in 51.43 seconds.
While practices at Hyland Hills haven't changed much, competitions have. The four Metro West Conference teams have been split into two groups. Rylee described how immediately after the first run she heads back up the hill for her second run.
"There is no break. We're in and out in like 20 minutes. The board that displays your times isn't even out for us to check it out. We don't find out how we did until later that night. It's crazy, but it's what needs to be done," Rylee said.
Spectators have not been allowed at meets as well, forced to watch through a stream.
The Section 6A meet will look a bit differently as well. The boys will compete at Buck Hill on Wednesday, March 3 with the girls racing on Thursday, March 4.
"What I'll miss the most is hanging out with people. The coaches, I definitely will miss the coaches. They make it so much fun," Rylee said.