By Frank Rizzo
CANANDAIGUA March 16, 2001 America? Oh, of course, big cities and skyscrapers and hustle and bustle.
Well, not quite, if you end up in Cochecton, as foreign exchange student Veronika Dlouha of the Czech Republic did.
Though Cochecton wasnt quite what she expected, Dlouha, who attends Sullivan West/Delaware Valley, has come to like the place.
And she likes America, too, because finishing her schooling here enabled her to fall in love again with her lifelong sport, downhill skiing.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, February 27-28, Dlouha took second overall at the New York State girls skiing championship. Not bad for someone who gave up competitive skiing two years ago.
Skiing was my life since I was four, Dlouha said. But I didnt want to ski [competitively] anymore.
The competition had become too intense, the sport too expensive in Europe, where she traveled extensively to race.
Her hometown of Trutnov is in the midst of the Republics highest mountains and ski centers.
When she started attending Sullivan West Dlouha had no idea the newly-centralized school would have a ski team. Further, she had no idea the team would compete.
I thought we would do it for fun! she said.
With the help of German Völkl brand skis her parents sent over, she soon established herself as one of the top skiers in the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) National Conference.
After winning the last two regular season races and the sectional championship meet, Dlouha became the Section IX overall champion.
The state championship course at Bristol Mountain in Canandaigua, near Rochester, was a little bit different than the courses were were used to. It was longer and harder, according to Dlouha.
I was kind of nervous before the first race, she added. I thought I could place in the top 10, but I didnt expect to do so good. I was excited, really enjoyed myself.
Dlouha was edged out by Section Vs Gabbie Buerman of Mercy High School in both the slalom (78.00 to 78.59) and giant slalom (126.72 to 127.64). See results below.
Following Her Sister?
Today, Dlouha and Sullivan West ski coach John McCormack travel to Franconia, New Hampshire, to compete in the Eastern States skiing championship at Cannon Mountain.
According to Veronika, her older sister Klara won this championship three years ago when she was an exchange student attending a Maine high school.
Im competing not only with other girls, but against my sister, Dlouha said with a laugh, but quickly waved off any hint of sibling rivalry.
The important thing is to have fun and enjoy [the experience], she said.
Dlouha acted as a co-coach at times with McCormack who had no racing experience.
I tried to help him, to talk to the team, to try to improve together, she said. None of [the other skiers] ever raced before and they all did a great job.
Dlouha has been studying English since third grade and the first month here was hard. They were speaking too fast, with [too much] slang.
She has since become comfortable with the language.
Veronika was a wonderful asset to our conference, said Fallsburg/
Tri-Valley ski coach Janet Carey. Everyone felt she was a positive force and put a lot of competitive pressure on the other skiers.
Carey said Dlouha was chosen to receive the Sportsmanship Award by the Section IX ski coaches.
For the spring, Dlouha joined the softball team a whole new experience.
I never played before and dont know the rules yet, she said. I can run, but the problem is catching and hitting the ball!
Dlouhas hosts are Jim and Jamie McAteer of Cochecton.
Girls Giant Slalom
1. Gabbie Buerman, Mercy 126.72
2. Veronika Dlouha, SW 127.64
27. Colleen Carey, Fallsburg/T-V 142.69
29. Candice Sheerer, Monticello 142.77
35. Laura Ferranti, Monticello 145.38
Becky Sheerer, Monticello DNF
1. Gabbi Buerman, Mercy 78.00
2. Veronika Dlouha, SW 78.59
11. Colleen Carey, Fallsburg/T-V 84.66
16. Laura Ferranti, Monticello 87.81
30. Candice Sheerer, Monticello 92.59
37. Becky Sheerer, Monticello 95.32
Boys Giant Slalom
1. Chris Frank, Windham Ashland Jewett 74.54
35. Mike Swope, Liberty/Eldred 91.12
Austin Pantel, Fallsburg/Tri-Valley DNF
Blake Levine, Fallsburg/Tri-Valley DNF
1. Chris Frank, Windham Ashland Jewett 111.76
42. Austin Pantel, Fallsburg/Tri-Valley 149.09
Mike Swope, Liberty/Eldred DNF
Blake Levine, Fallsburg/Tri-Valley DNF