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Grizz snowboarders in line for another title run

Matt Faurot thinks he has a winner. He would know.

The Ashland High snowboarding coach led the Grizzly girls to a state title last season and is fresh off a another championship campaign at the helm of the St. Mary's boys' soccer team.

So as he prepares his latest snowboarding crew for Saturday's season-opening Giant Slalom at Mount Ashland, his words carry plenty of weight. So far, those words are full of optimism.

"I think our girls team will be slightly better," said Faurot, who's coached the snowboarding team since its inception five years ago. "We have most of the girls returning and with the addition of Kate Meyer coaching, she'll help to push the kids along in their skill."

The boys are also coming off a highly successful year. After capturing the 2003 Southern League title, the Grizzlies took first at state in the team boardercross race and fourth in the slope style competition for a second-place finish overall.

Lots of help

Faurot credits his four assistant coaches - Meyer, Devon Lyons, Kevin McNally and Ryan Johnston - with giving the team an edge over its competition. The fact that the squad is over 50 snowboarders strong doesn't hurt either.

"I'm not exactly surprised (by the numbers) because snowboarding popularity has been gaining rapidly," Faurot said. "I think that our success the last couple years and some of the publicity we've got has helped drive the participation."

Whatever it is, it's helped make the Grizzlies the team to beat in both the boys and girls Southern League title chase.

Spearheading the Ashland High boys' repeat charge will be seniors Evan Campbell, Sam Scheer and Morgan McKelvey, as well as juniors Rob McNamara, Gabe Gonzalez.

"I think our boys team has dominated the Southern League and I feel like we should be in the top-five in state," Faurot said. "We lost Asa (Cates) and Owen (King) — but I feel like the kids we have are going to be faster and more skilled. I feel like in some ways they will make up for the loss of those graduates."

Cates and King both walked last June, but, in a move that points to the program's strength, both have returned this season as volunteer coaches.

"It makes my job easier," Faurot said.

Team leaders

Leading the Grizz girls will be seniors Stephanie Elliot, Ella Street and Lily McCabe, junior Emma Kurtz and sophomore Hallie Beaver.

Elliot won the individual slope style state title last season, Street is the defending league champ and Beaver took fourth in the slope style at state.

The slope style competitions consist of snowboarders performing various tricks in front of judges, who rate performances based on technique, execution and style.

Giant slalom events are races through a course of gates and flags, with the combined time of two runs determining places.

The Southern League season was scheduled to begin last week, but was postponed when the snow storm hit Mount Ashland. Every SL meet will be held on Mount Ashland. Those meets are scheduled for Jan. 23, Jan. 31, Feb. 13 and Feb. 20, plus a make-up meet in mid-Februrary.

The other Southern League teams are South Medford, North Medford, Grants Pass, Crater and St. Mary's.

The State meet will be held Feb. 5-6 at Mount Hood.