Digging speed on the slopes

West Lee student wins silver in snowboarding slalom
Jan. 24, 2013 @ 07:39 PM

If it goes fast and has a little bit of danger involved, Spencer Magee wants to prove he can master it.

Magee, an eighth-grader at West Lee Middle School, is fast on a wakeboard at the beach and on a Ripstik around the neighborhood. He's just getting into surfing and horseback riding.

Magee's at his best though, in the snow, on a mountain, ready to go down the slope at full speed on a snowboard. He won a silver medal in the Advanced 1 Division of Snowboarding Slalom, the top division, at the 2013 Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) Winter Games Jan. 6-7 at Appalachian Ski Mountain near Boone.

Natural when it comes to any sport combining balance and speed, Magee rarely practices snowboarding. SONC held a practice day for all its alpine athletes at Appalachian Ski Mountain in December and Magee practiced before, during and even after the Winter Games.

"It's amazing how he just picks it right back up," said Spencer's mother, Carrie.

The practice time on the slopes, along with new equipment, has Spencer even more amped about his chances for February and the Southeast Region Winter Games, also in Boone.

It wasn't until the middle of Sunday, the second day of the Winter Games, and after Magee's first timed run, when he and his coach made an important discovery.

Magee rents a board each trip to Appalachian Ski Mountain and the guys in the shop simply gave him the same board he used in medaling at the Winter Games last year. No one accounted for Magee growing three inches in the last 12 months.

Katie, an expert slalom snowboarder and Magee's coach for the weekend, got a proper length board.

After a half-hour of practice on the new board, Magee went from a time of 27.5 seconds on his first run to 20.25 seconds in the final.

Flying down the mountain faster than ever didn't bother Magee for a second.

"It was great. I knew right away and you just go with it," he said. "The speed was great. It was so fast."

After winning the silver, Magee's day wasn't done. Katie went on more runs with Magee. Spencer said he was improving during the post-Olympics practicing.

Bill Rose is Spencer's head coach. The resort's French Swiss Ski College hosts the Winter Games and provides individual coaches for the two days.

"All of the coaches and staff up there are wonderful to everyone," Carrie said. "They make it such a great experience. We're lucky to have found it."

Mom says that even while the faster Spencer goes, the more nervous she is.

"It was fantastic, but insane," she said, "I mean if he falls, it's over."

Looking beyond winter, he's ready for wakeboarding and surfing season. Wakeboarding, he said, "is just like snowboarding, but on water." He surfed for the first time last summer but was quick to get the hang of it.

Spencer says he doesn't think at all about falling, no matter what board. He hasn't had a snowboarding crash yet and even if he did, he'd have no problem getting right back on the board. Especially with his new board, he was getting air off some spots of his runs during and after the Games, which led to another way Magee might show his inner daredevil soon.

Along with slalom snowboarding for speed, Magee might take on stunt snowboarding as well. There's no Special Olympic competition for that sport but it would be a fun challenge, so therefore, he wants to take it on.