SLINGER — There was an air of jubilation at the Midwest High School Ski Conference meet out at the Little Switzerland Complex in Slinger Thursday night, so the fans brought out their cowbells, their “big head” cutouts of their favorite competitors and their warmest gloves and boots.

Because the weather had finally decided to cooperate with a little fresh powder and sub-30 degree temperatures that helped make up for a January full of uncharacteristically warm and rainy weather.

“We were finally able to get a little snow and celebrate,” said West Bend sophomore Olivia Hutchins who was the five-team meet’s girls’ medalist on the slalom course. “It went really well tonight the conditions were phenomenal. This season started out slow, but now we’re doing well.”

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Hutchins combined two-run time of 43.25 seconds led West Bend to the girls’ team title with a four-skier total of 192.72 seconds as the Slinger/Hartford team was second (195.19), Oconomowoc third (204.7), Brookfield East fourth (227.23) and Catholic Memorial fifth (245.35).

West Bend coach Jon Sisson couldn’t have been more pleased.

“Our first three meets were just the worst conditions I’ve seen in the last 10 years,” he said, “but I am so pleased and proud of the kids. They’ve adapted to the situation far better than most adults do (laughs).”

Sison is hopeful about the girls’ squad’s chances of winning conference and doing well at state.

The event was the fourth of six mini-meets in the 23-team conference, with the top 12 teams, both boys and girls, advancing to the state meet in La Crosse in February.

Other girls’ competitors earning top three medals included runner-up Maria Schwabe of Oconomowoc (43.95), and Slinger/Hartford’s Grace Kondrakiewicz (45.76). Other top five finishers were Catholic Memorial’s Grace Wozniak (47.16) and West Bend’s Ashley Bensen (48.98).

Oconomowoc coach Jeff Kroening was also grateful for the conditions and how his athletes have soldiered on with great spirit.

“December was actually great,” he said, “but then it got warm and rainy where we barely survived. We have about 25 kids out with a nice mixture. We have a lot who are new to the sport, just learning, but the more experienced kids have been great, helping to teach the others.”

That sense of giving back is strong throughout the sport.

There was a real sense of camaraderie on the hill Thursday night with all kinds of coach’s kids taking part as well as former skiers coming back to help out. That was true of former Brookfield East two-time all-around state champion Erica Engstrand, who is balancing medical studies with a desire to help out the latest generation of Spartan skiers.

“There’s a real sense of family in this sport that makes it very rewarding,” said East coach Sibylle Tasker. The Spartans’ Anna Abernethy finished 11th this night, but has already qualified for state with an individual meet title earlier this season.

On the boys’ side, it’s been simply a matter of destiny for the Catholic Memorial coach Eric Stevens and his senior son Bode, who was medalist at the Little Switzerland meet.

“I put him on skis when he was about 3 after carrying him down the hill when he was just 1,” laughed the coach. “Tonight was fun. We had a tough first half of the season, but it was very nice here. The conditions were boiler plate (perfect) and the kids really responded.”

Bode Stevens dominated the boys’ competition by close to a second with a two-run time of 43.84 as Oconomowoc’s Austin Steiner took the runner-up medal (44.75) and teammate Hudson Kroening took the third place slot (46.12). West Bend’s Mason Dorn was fourth (46.44) and Memorial’s Brady Acker was fifth (47.04).

Behind Steiner and Hudson Kroening’s efforts, Oconomowoc won the meet with a combined time of 193.25 seconds, while West Bend was second (194.7), Memorial third (196.86), Slinger/Hartford fourth (204.13) and Brookfield East fifth (244.86).

Meet host Slinger/Hartford coach Ryan McMeeken was happy the meet went off so well as the OriOwls also got to celebrate their senior night. He has over 20 athletes on his team and said it’s great for the kids that Little Switzerland is only about five blocks from Slinger High School.

“It has been a challenge this winter, but these have been the best conditions we’ve had all year,” he said. “We have a lot of new kids out and we’ve had to do a little re-setting (of the season) because of the weather, but everyone has responded so well.”

And everybody who wanted to strap on a set of skis or a snowboard after the soggy start to winter was responding well Thursday night, as all the hills on the Little Swiss (as it is commonly known) layout were busy and the tow rope back up the hill was a non-stop conveyor belt of young and old, experienced and novice, reminding the coaches what their sport is all about.

“The best part of this job is that we’re teaching the kids a lifetime sport,” said Tasker.

“We’ve always taken all skill levels,” said Coach Stevens, “and we’re trying to make it enjoyable for them.”

“The best part of this job is that we’re teaching the kids a lifetime sport,” said Tasker.

Hutchins agreed with that assessment. “I’m not sure why I ski,” laughed Hutchins. “It’s just always been fun.”