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2011-12 Winter Preview: Park's alpine ski racers showing growth

Park senior Kaitlyn Cornwell will be one of the Wolfpack's team captains in 2011-12.

Park's alpine racers are looking to come out of the gate strong this year.

With more skiers on both the boys and girls side than in 2010-11, Park-Woodbury-East Ridge coach Kevin Seipel said he expects to see gains on the race course this season.

On the boys side, the team now has enough to racers to compete in sections - a boost from last year's turnout, which saw only five racers; section races allow for six spots per team.

"It's a definite improvement from last year," Seipel said. "With their added racers this year, it'll be a lot better."

Senior Cole Conner and junior Lane Crose will captain the boys team. Other skiers of note on the boys squad include freshman Daniel Rogers, sophomore Alexander Bruss and junior Brian Buckner.

The Park girls are also seeing renewed interest for the slalom course. Seipel said Park will field eight racers this year - a gain of four over last year.

"That's going to be huge," he said.

That also allows the girls to field a full section team. With just four competing last year, that required standout performances from every single racer on each run.

Now the girls can fill all six slots for section competition.

"That definitely takes a lot of the pressure off of them," Seipel said.

The Park girls will be led by senior captains Kaitlyn Cornwell and Andrea Kuzj.

Seipel said Cornwell, a three-sport athlete, nearly missed all-conference honors last season - she was received an All-SEC honorable-mention nod - but looks to pour it on this year.

He said she and Kuzj have both been strong so far in dryland training.

"I think that they could be in that top 10 (in sections)," he said.

The PWER team trains and practices as one unit but competes as individual schools at conference, section and state meets. The competition built during practices among the 80 combined PWER racers helps give racers an edge, Seipel said.

"Our kids are a little better prepared than the other teams," he said.

The PWER teams compete in five conference meets comprising 10 teams.

Seipel said he expects Stillwater, Hastings and Forest Lake will be threats on both the girls and boys side in conference. He said Visitation and St. Thomas Academy should be the teams to beat at the Section 3AA meet.

PWER will also compete this season in non-conference meets against Hill-Murray and Mankato-area school, Seipel noted.

Seipel said interest in alpine is once again building after flagging in recent years. He credited recent successes among PWER skiers at sections and state for the momentum.

"That shows that what we're doing is working," he said.