By David Willis
---- — Kerry Christopher remembers the sheer will and determination it took to take home her first top-10 skiing medal.
And that was just convincing her mother to let her stick around for the ceremony.
“When I was 7-years-old I took my first top-10, a second-place finish and I freaked out,” she said. “But I was really, really sick that day. I remember sitting in the lodge and my mom was trying to get me to go home because I felt so bad. But I wanted to wait for my medal.”
That medal may have been the first in Christopher’s collection, but it certainly wasn’t the last for the prolific skier.
Now, after leading Andover High to an undefeated regular season, Christopher and her squad are looking to take home their biggest trophy yet, setting their eyes on a state title after finishing just two points short a season ago.
“We are definitely out to get that this year,” said Nicole Ericson. “When we heard we missed out on first last year by two points, we just thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s like 100ths of a second. We are SO ready for states and we have so many girls going. We have had an awesome year, and I feel like we have a good chance.”
No one is more focused on the prize than senior Christopher, Andover’s top performer and the third of three sisters to star for the Golden Warriors, who hopes to finish off her career in style.
“It’s been really exciting to have an undefeated season because this is an amazing group,” she said. “All year long we have been working for the big meets, and it would be awesome to finish off my ski career with a title.”
Christopher first took on her family sport when she was 3-years-old, and at just age 4 she was racing at the Bradford Ski Area — Andover’s home course — where she was coached by Golden Warriors head coach Tom Busta who she described as a “second father.”
Soon, Christopher was following in the family footsteps of starring on the slopes for Andover High, following in the tradition of her mother Julia, older sister Cayley (class of 2008) and big sister Erin (class of 2010), who was a senior when Erin was a freshman.
“My sister and I always had a very friendly rivalry,” she said. “We always went back and fourth and I really wanted to beat her. My first race my freshman year I got third, and Erin beat me by 2/100ths of a second. I learned a lot from going against her, and competing against her made me better.”
Kerry also began to star as a freshman, when she grabbed eighth overall in the slalom at Massachusetts States. She followed that up with team-best finishes in both the slalom and giant slalom (20th, 25th) as a sophomore and last year grabbed a team-high 10th in the slalom and was 20th in the giant slalom at States, when the Golden Warrior finished just short of the title
“We considered second as a success,” she said. “But we still had to think to ourselves that if we had just done two seconds better, we would have been champions.”
With the graduation of fellow All-North Shore League performer and teammate Jess Kearns last year, Christopher knew she had to take on No. 1 role full time this season, and her teammates were confident she would succeed.
“Kerry is amazing,” said Ericson. “Every time I see her go down the hill I think, ‘This girl is awesome!’ She works so hard and she is just an amazing person and captain. She does it all.”
Christopher set the tone early in 2013, placing third in the team’s first race of the season, then taking first overall in the second meet of year.
“When you get to the bottom of the mountain you can feel if you had a good run,” she said. “You have to tell yourself you can do it. Everyone is counting on you, so even if something goes wrong you have to give it all you have.”
Since she is planning to focus on school once she enters college, Christopher knows her ski racing career has just three events left — the Interscholastic meet that was scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday’s Bove Meet and the state meet on the Feb. 27 — she now hopes to finish on top.
“We have great depth and some amazing girls,” she said. “It’s more fun than anything. We want to win it, and it would be great to finish on top.”
Others leading the way for the Golden Warriors in the postseason meets include Sara Faigle, Julia Ganley and Jessica Leung.
“We are so excited,” said Ganley. “It has been a great season so far, and we hope to continue this. I think this is a great team. The boys won states two years ago, and we would love to do it too.”
Ganley is entering the major meets hot, edging Christopher for victory in the Golden Warriors’ final league meet of the season.
It is that competition that drives the Golden Warriors to greatness.
“It’s definitely a friendly rivalry,” said Faigle. “There are so many good skiers here that it pushes me to do better. We go back and fourth but we always congratulate each other after a great run.”
Out but not gone
One member of the Warriors that won’t be taking the slopes for states will be Ericson, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL during a recent race.
“I was in a race, my ski caught the edge and my knee just buckled,” she said. “I tore my ACL and I was done for skiing and softball. That is tough.”
But despite her disappointment, the optimistic Ericson still hopes to lift the title trophy.
“To be a state champion would be so awesome,” she said. “I’d love to be out there, but I am going to be at every race cheering them on, and I have so much faith. I know they can do it.”