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Ski preview: All in the family at Gateway Regional

It’s not unusual for a skiing coach to coach his or her children at Gateway Regional. During his nine years as girls coach, Dana Huff guided his daughters Maura and Kirsten to multiple individual championships.

The relationship Gateway sophomore Austin Herman shares with his mother Cindy, who is the boys coach, illustrates just how special and rewarding the experience can be.

The very thought of being coached by one’s mother might be a turnoff for some, but it’s something Austin has learned to embrace to the point of becoming second nature.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s a lot different than any other coach,” he said. “She treats me the same as everyone else, and I have to respect that she’s the coach and also my mom at the same time. It doesn’t really bother me at all, and nobody else on the team finds it weird.”

His mother agreed that the relationship between the two has developed like that of any other player-coach dynamic.

“When I’m playing the role of coach, he’s very respectful, and I see him treating me as he would any adult that he is learning from,” she said.

Cindy Herman is in her second year as coach of the Gators, who field only five racers, but her involvement in Austin’s skiing career has deeper roots.

Austin, who is one of the most accomplished downhill racers of his age in western Mass., has skied for most of his life, and his mother has been there every step of the way. She first introduced him to the slopes at an age when most kids are still learning to tie their shoes and dress themselves.

“Austin took his first lesson and learned to ski at Berkshire East on high school individuals day when he was 5 years old,” Cindy Herman, a Gateway graduate herself, said. “I had gone to watch the team that day, and I got him a private lesson just because I didn’t want him to be bored. He took to it right away and was on the bunny hill, going up the chair and skiing down on his own within an hour.

“He watched the kids race that day, and he said, ‘Mom, I wanna race.’”

Austin’s mother made accommodations for her son to take skiing lessons at Blandford Ski Area. There, he developed the skills that allowed him to compete on the Gateway ski team as a seventh-grader.

Now, as his high school coach, Cindy is able to help mold her son into a competitive racer talented enough to lead all PVIAC South boys in scoring in 2012. This year, Austin is off to an excellent start, having claimed a pair of first and second-place South Division finishes for a total of 38 points in Gateway’s first four races of the season.

Austin Herman said his mission going forward is to finish as the top boys skier overall, regardless of divisional placement.

“It would be cool for me (to be able) to say I got first overall in a race,” he said. “That’s a goal I’d like to achieve this year.”

Reaching that goal was made difficult early on this year, as Austin struggled to adjust to a growth spurt that added five inches to his frame.

From “seventh grade up until last year, I was always just a little short kid, and this year I kind of grew,” he said. “It just (felt) a lot different when I’m skiing and more awkward at first.”

While most mothers experience this transformation through a parental lens, Cindy witnessed it as a competitive coach, as well.

“From a mom side, it’s exciting to see your son grow into a young man,” she said. “From a coach’s standpoint, it’s exciting because you’re looking toward the future of how much better can they get? How much more can you coach them, and is there more that they can give?”

As Austin has grown into a better and more confident skier, he’s used his role as team leader to become an extension of his mother out on the course for some of his younger and more inexperienced teammates.

“As a stronger skier, he’s kind of a mentor to them,” Cindy said. “I think that’s important, as a coach, to find that kid that can be that. He is my son, but he’s the one on the team that can kind of pull everyone through and get them together.”

Boys Alpine Skiing

Amherst Regional

COACH: Pepe Torras, fourth year

DIVISION: PVIAC North

RETURNERS: Seniors — Greg Lerner, Eli Ayres, Jon Simonds; Sophomores — Zach Weinberg, Sam Simonds, Lucas Harrington; Freshman — Lucas Chaplin

NEWCOMERS: Sophomores — Cooper Nelson, Joey Pearson, Jeff Shepard; Freshmen — Maia Hamin, Pete Hudlicka, Sage Balin; Seventh-graders — Margaret O’Connell, Lilly Wear

OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes sent their three captains — Greg Lerner, Eli Ayers and Jon Simonds — to states last year, and they’ll be looking for more of the same this season, especially from Lerner, who was limited by injuries as a junior. Keep an eye on Wear in the future.

Frontier Regional

COACH: Brett Saharceski, second year

DIVISION: PVIAC North

RETURNERS: Senior — Jacob Conroy; Junior — Sean Doyle; Sophomore — Jack Hebert; Eighth-grader — Billy Prunier

NEWCOMERS: Freshman — Aaron Rosewaren; Seventh-grader — Charlie Fox

OUTLOOK: Captains Jacob Conroy and Sean Doyle will look to help the Red Hawks land a top-3 overall finish. Doyle has been one of the top skiers overall for the past two seasons.

Gateway Regional

COACH: Cindy Herman, second year

DIVISION: PVIAC South

RETURNERS: Sophomore — Austin Herman; Freshman — Jonathan Rooney, Brennan Foley

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Chris Burke; Eighth-grader — Matthew Hewes

OUTLOOK: The Gators are limited in numbers, but are led by standout Austin Herman, who is coming off back-to-back state finals appearances and finished eighth overall while leading all PVIAC South in the standings last year.

Hampshire Regional

COACH: Jane O’Riordan, 22nd year

DIVISION: PVIAC North

RETURNERS: Juniors — Jackson Seifert, Denton Green, Ryan Brown; Freshmen — Joseph Ryan III, Cody Lebrecque; Eighth-graders — Tye Martin, Graham George, Harry George

NEWCOMERS: Junior — C.J. Shaw

OUTLOOK: With the core of her squad returning, O’Riordan has been impressed with her team’s attitude and work ethic so far.

Holyoke Catholic

COACH: Dylan Monroe, first year

DIVISION: PVIAC South

RETURNERS: Seniors — Kevin Campbell, Kyle Gelinas; Sophomores — Ben Modzelesky, Scott Hebert, Noah Green, Casper Chrabaszcz

NEWCOMERS: Freshman — Connor Carignan

OUTLOOK: Monroe said his team is skiing with an added level of maturity this year and looks to make a jump in the South standings. Campbell and Gelinas are threats to make the state finals.

Northampton

COACH: Hope Wilson, first year

DIVISION: PVIAC South

RETURNERS: Juniors — Theo Viola, Ben Smith, David Banta-Garcia, Will Lombardi; Sophomores — Marco Barroso, Daniel Belkin

NEWCOMERS: Freshmen — Charles Denhart, Ryan Guild

OUTLOOK: Denhart is a cocaptain and the team’s strongest skier. Look for him to finish in the top-10 overall in the PVIAC South.

Girl’s Alpine Skiing

Frontier Regional

COACH: Brett Saharceski, second year

DIVISION: PVIAC South

RETURNERS: Freshman — Alli Zera

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Mia Monserrate, Jess Cobb; Freshman — Lily Schumann; Seventh-grader — Hannah Zera

OUTLOOK: Alli Zera has had a strong start to the season. The young Red Hawks will look gain valuable experience.

Gateway Regional

COACH: Todd Whitaker, second year

DIVISION: PVIAC North

RETURNERS: Junior — Caitlyn Bodoh; Sophomores — Ali Fisk, Hannah Green; Freshman — Allison Garriepi

NEWCOMERS: Eighth-grader — Shannon Burke

OUTLOOK: Whitaker expects team leader Bodoh to build on her trip to states last year and finish in the top-10 overall this season.

Hampshire Regional

COACH: Jane O’Riordan, 22nd year

DIVISION: PVIAC North

RETURNERS: Seniors — Olivia Griswold, Elizabeth Wood; Junior — Madelynne Schwallie; Sophomores — Carley Davis, Kenzie Gobillot

OUTLOOK: With no newcomers and only six returners, the Raiders will be pressed for numbers this season.

Holyoke Catholic

COACH: Dylan Monroe, first year

DIVISION: PVIAC South

RETURNERS: Seniors — Lauren Kennedy, Emily Campbell; Junior — Lexie Neffinger

NEWCOMERS: Freshman — Laura Buffett-Jackson, Lyndsay Pisano, Melissa Iczkowski, Sydney Brosseau, Cara O’Driscoll

OUTLOOK: The Gaels have better depth this season after a lack of numbers kept the team from qualifying in a number of races last year. Kennedy and Campbell have their sights set on states.

Northampton

COACH: Hope Wilson, first year

DIVISION: PVIAC South

RETURNERS: Seniors — Alessandria Schumaker, Sadie Berenson; Juniors — Anna Barondes, Madison Mientka, Isabell Snodgrass; Sophomore — Monica Nicoletti

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Lucy Sloan

OUTLOOK: Schumaker and Mientka are captains for a squad that should perform well enough to send several skiers to states.

Nordic Skiing

Amherst Regional

COACH: Nathaniel Woodruff, fifth year

DIVISION: Berkshire Nordic League

BOYS RETURNERS: Seniors — Isaac Hare Steig, Matt Pruyne, Miguel Reda, Thomas Jeffries, Will Viederman; Juniors — Duncan Crowley, Matt Kalt, Owen Devlin Gauthier, Simon Elliott; Sophomores — Gabriel Killough-Hill, Jorden van Emmerik

BOYS NEWCOMERS: Freshmen — Ciaran Young, Connor Sittauer, Josiah Vasquez, Nate Corp

GIRLS RETURNERS: Seniors — Clara Dahill-Baue, Leah Alper, Lenna Quackenbush; Juniors — Tulsa Douglas, Valerie Willocq; Sophomores — Amanda Riley, Kira Weilerstein, Linda Crowley, Meaghan McCluskey, Zach Mundt

GIRLS NEWCOMERS: Junior — Haden Stevens; Sophomore — Charlotte Price; Freshmen — Aoife Dahill-Baue, Elsa Seterdahl, Gemma Archer, Helen Ramspott, Kailey Tobin, Laney Morse, Livvy Weld, Zofia Noble

OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes will be infused with a lot of new, but talented athletes for the 2013 season.

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