They treat the snowboard under their feet as if they were Aladdin riding a magic carpet, dancing atop would-be danger, twisting and turning their way as they race down a snow-covered slope.
And every foot of elevation they drop, their smile widens.
These are the snowboarders of the Central/Logan team, the four-time defending state snowboard champions who are going full-throttle for a fifth championship on Saturday at Mount La Crosse.
Three of the top four boarders from last year’s state title team — Max Earley, Dawson Fredrickson and Brian Popp — return, as well as a strong contingent of teammates ready to make it a five-peat.
The 44th annual Wisconsin Interscholastic Alpine Racing Association (WIARA) Ski & Snowboard Championships are set for Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Mount La Crosse.
“We have all been working really hard this year with the snow we have gotten to work on, and I think we have a pretty good chance,” said Fredrickson, who won the boardercross last year and was fourth overall.
“I like how my guys are looking and I’ve got confidence in them. We are all brothers, we love it out here and we all love what we do with each other. We really are a family.”
If you spend any time at all with the “boarders,” as they are called, you quickly realize that they are creative, outside-the-box, thinkers with free spirits that has no room for fear. If they are at a high level — which the Central/Logan team is — they have fallen.
Sometimes hard. Sometimes with consequence.
“I guess I have always thought falling makes you better, for sure,” Fredrickson said. “You need to fall to get better and if you don’t fall, you are never really going to get better.
“I think that pushing yourself, when you feel you are going to fall, it hits me and I kind of go in slow motion for a second. Then I kind of think, ‘What can I do right this second to save myself from disaster or from missing the podium (awards stand) by just that small step?’”
Boarders live on the edge of disaster, and Central/Logan has demonstrated the ability to walk that tight rope better than any other team in the state the last four years.
Can they do it again?
“We have been pretty successful, you know. It has been a good run, and thankfully, hopefully, we can run all four years of my high school career,” said Earley, who finished second overall, and won the slalom last year.
“With the team, yeah, I guess once in a while it (fifth state title) comes up in conversation. We always want to succeed and we wish the best of luck between each other.”
A snowboard team consists of six competitors, and the top four scores in each event — giant slalom, slalom and boardercross — are combined for one total team score. Like golf or cross country, the lowest score wins.
A year ago, Central/Logan finished with 43 points, which was a country mile ahead of second-place West Bend (206) and Middleton (211). The competition this year, said former longtime coach Bill Patza, who still helps with team, is formidable.
“As strong as Arrowhead is in skiing, La Crosse Central/Logan is that strong in boarding, although the AOWS (Aquinas/Onalaska/West Salem) team this year has a couple of freshmen that have come on strong,” Patza said.
“They (Central/Logan) are a pretty close-knit group that has been working pretty hard. We expect a lot of things out of them, but they are going to have to pull together as a team because I think AOWS could give them a run for it.”
Not if Earley has anything to say about it.
Earley, a laid-back 17-year-old who recently returned from a family vacation in Keystone and Breckenridge, Colo., has his sights set on a fourth team title during his tenure, and something more.
“My brother (Steve Henderson), he has won state individually in the past, and I just kind of want to win it a time,” Earley said. “I have been forerunning on the team since my brother was on it — he is 27 now — which is a long time ago.
“Then I got into high school and it all changed; I became part of the team, you know. You go out every day and you see your buddies out here and you just go out and make lap after lap and have a dandy of a time.
“It is something I will never forget, spending time out here. It is like people out here have become like my family.”
“We are all brothers, we love it out here and we all love what we do with each other.” Central/Logan snowboader Dawson Fredrickson