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Only game in town

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ASHLAND — Tyler and Hadley Dunlevy had a little sibling rivalry going that’s quite unique in Oregon so far this year.

The pair, just two years apart, are downhill ski racers who each won their event recently in the only high-school sporting event in Southern Oregon this winter amid COVID-19 restrictions that have shut down all other sports.

Tyler, a North Medford High School senior, beat Hadley, a North Medford sophomore, by less than 1.5 seconds in two combined giant slalom runs through the gates Jan. 23 at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area — enough for bragging rights so Tyler could root his sister on while still slightly sweating that tiny space between the siblings’ times.

“It really is super-cool,” Tyler Dunlevy says. “It’s good to have a little competitiveness in the family. I feel like it makes us both better.”

High school ski races are the only competitions among Southern Oregon high schools, and the Southern Oregon Ski Education Foundation is more than happy that these kids can break away from socially distanced learning to hit the slopes and compete while still following COVID-19 safety protocols.

“We’re the only game in town,” says Gary King, the team’s head coach. “As long as we follow the COVID policies, we can race here.”

Other sports like football, basketball, volleyball and soccer all saw their fall and winter seasons scrubbed through the Oregon School Athletic Association while students were banned from attending classes in schools. No in-school instruction, no OSAA-sanctioned sports.

But skiing in Southern Oregon, Portland and Bend is a club sport not governed by the OSAA. They were able to put together protocols to keep their sport on schedule.

“But we always know we’re being watched,” King says. “Ultimately, we want to do what’s safe for the kids and safe for us.”

Wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart isn’t much of a stretch for skiers who ride lifts alone and ski through gates one at a time. Too bad you can’t see the smiles through their helmets.

“I gotta tell you, they are so appreciative to come out here to do their sport,” King says. “Otherwise, they’d be cooped up at home. Instead, here they are.”

No one is more appreciative than Triston Lexow.

The North Medford senior and several of his compatriots labored through several months of “dry-land training,” arduous exercises to strengthen their lower bodies and cores to gain speed on the slopes.

Lexow was a regular on King-led mountain biking forays outside of Rogue River, powering through the dusty mountain trails in what the kids called “brown powder.” Finally, Lexow is getting a chance to translate all that sweat into time on white powder that he always hoped would come.

“It was all about the hope that we could be up here,” Lexow says before Saturday’s training run amid a near blizzard on Mount Ashland. “We always had to stay in that positive mindset. If you didn’t, there was nothing to look forward to. It was all working hard so we could come up to the mountain and compete in the sport we love,” he says.

As for the Dunlevys, the sibling rivalry remains strong, like a dinner disagreement without any slinging of mashed potatoes.

Hadley has visions of besting her brother on their next giant slalom race, scheduled for Saturday

“I hope so,” Hadley says.

“No, she’s not,” Tyler retorts.

“Well,” Hadley says, “I’m gonna try.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune South Medford Jaeda Boutwell handles a flush on a dual slalom course as a teammate tries to recover a turn training at Mt Ashland.