Written by Ben Jacklet
Category: High School Alpine Racing
Published: January 03, 2019
Last Updated: January 08, 2019
Sandy High School racers get in the spirit for Kelsey's Race. Photo by Robin Cressy
More than 400 Oregon High School ski racers launched another lively season Saturday on Mount Hood with camaraderie, costumes, and spirit befitting the Third Annual Kelsey's Race, the largest high school race in the United States.
Kelsey's Race, named for a talented Portland skier who died tragically young, serves as the annual season opener for Oregon's ski racing season. The race is meant to be a fun event that celebrates the joy of skiing, offering racers of all levels the opportunity to compete, some for the first time in a race course. Runs are timed but they do not count toward team standings or state championship qualification. Many racers wear creative costumes while competing and cheering on their teammates, and the event's ambience is one of festive celebration.
The 400-plus competitors were treated to perfect racing conditions, with no wind, excellent visibility, and good, fast snow. There were awards for individuals and teams, raffle prizes from Xevo Goggles and POC helmets, and plenty of big smiles.
The positive, non-competitive aspect of the race is dedicated to the memory of Kelsey Hewitt, who was a high-level racer who loved to ski with and cheer on teammates and friends of all ability levels. Kelsey Hewitt started the Grant High School team with her father Randy Hewitt and made it to the Oregon State Championship four years in a row as the Grant team grew into the Eastside Racing Team, now up to 50 racers from several Portland schools. Kelsey Hewitt died in 2015 in a skiing accident in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the age of 25.
'Her effervescent spirit'
Kelsey's father Randy Hewitt, coach of the Eastside Ski Racing Team and past president of the Oregon Interscholastic Ski Racing Association, recently shared the personal story of Kelsey's Race with Eastside Racers and their families:
She was the most beautiful skier you've ever seen. She was the most wonderful daughter two parents could ever wish for. Heartbreakingly, she died in a skiing accident in Jackson, Wyoming on December 22, 2015. Life for me, Elise, and Braden will never be the same.
What we do seek, however, is meaning, and coaching skiing to these young people provides that. Kelsey
's Race adds to that as you can see on this 8 minute link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1KA9kedKqI
The OISRA Board voted two summers ago to hold Kelsey
's Race as the first race of the season for as far as we can see into the future. I'm honored.
Kelsey's Race is all about fun, camaraderie, and being a good sport. Kelsey used to cheer for other racers at the top of her lungs. She made friends with competitors from other schools. When she coached, she always seemed to have treats for the racers - Halloween candy or home made cookies. These things are woven into the fabric of Kelsey's Race.
At Kelsey's Race, cookies will be distributed throughout the day by the Sportsmanship Coordinators and other volunteers. These will be homemade cookies brought by teams from all leagues (400 racers total). Please talk among yourselves and coordinate the bringing of cookies to the race. Four-to-six dozen cookies from our whole team would be great.
I'm grateful for the privilege of coaching each of you students and for building friendships with each of you as parents. Many of my former parents and racers will be working at Kelsey's Race. I'm also grateful for Garrett, Nate, Braden, my former assistant coaches, and dedicated parents for helping build this team. You'll notice "I ski for Kelsey" as part of our team logo. It belongs there because she was the founder and infused her effervescent spirit into all that makes our team special.
Here's a shot of Randy Hewitt addressing racers, families, and volunteers at the end of the race:
Randy and his wife Elise presided over the awards ceremony with grace and thanked the volunteers, coaches and racers for a successful event that is more about friendships and community than competition. "It's all about loving what you're doing," Randy Hewitt said from the podium. "I love working with all the kids and so did Kelsey, and that's why we're going to keep doing Kelsey's Race every year."
Comments from participating racers were similarly positive. Cailin Gahan of Wilsonville High School, who took first place among 214 registered female racers, wrote to the Hewitts and the race organizers to express her thanks for "the most memorable race" she had ever competed in:
I have been ski racing for 12 years, and have been to more races than I can count. By far this is the most memorable race I’ve been to. I enjoyed every part of my day yesterday, starting with the costume contest, then racing and catching up with old friends from other teams, and also the end of it with the awards ceremony. Yesterday was a day that I will never forget because of all the effort you guys have put in so thank you for all of that. I know that my team, my friends, my family and I really appreciate all that you have done. I also wanted to say thank you for the hats and sunglasses you were giving out to all of the athletes, it is a great way to remember this day. Thank you again for everything you have done to put on this event, and I can not wait to race in it again next year!!!!
The full team and individual results for the Third Annual Kelsey's Race are available here
This video from Robin Cressy captures the positive vibe that prevailed throughout the 3rd Annual Kelsey's Race on Mount Hood: