Her goal was simple and nowhere near as mountainous as the courses that have become her daily challenge. Tricia Mangan wasn’t trying to become the next Picabo Street or Lindsey Vonn, cover girls whose names and faces were splashed across U.S. women’s skiing during her childhood.
Mangan had one objective when she stood atop hills at Holimont Ski Resort in Ellicottville, sized up the competition and plunged her ski poles into the snow. Her two-step process toward her ultimate quest was uncomplicated. If she successfully executed the first step, she would complete her mission.
Step One: Go fast.
Step Two: Beat William.
Beating her twin brother was all Tricia ever wanted. For years, she also chased siblings Connor and Peter. They were older, stronger and more experiences. They were expected to win. William was different. He was the same age but had always been a little faster, even when leaving the womb.
“William was always unbelievably athletic and naturally gifted,” Tricia said. “It was awesome to have him and trying to chase him down. In every single sport, I was always competing against him. It was something we loved to do whether it was soccer or swimming or whatever, but it was mostly skiing.”
Tricia is scheduled to compete in her first World Cup event Saturday when she represents the U.S. Ski Team in the giant slalom in Killington, Vt. To say it’s just another race would minimize elite competition. She’s competing on alpine skiing’s highest circuit and wants to prove she belongs.
Mangan qualified Nov. 15 when she won time trials for the U.S. team at Copper Mountain, Colo. Her finish gave her an automatic spot in Killington and fell in line with her pattern of success. She has trailed many competitors over the years before eventually blowing past them.
Four years ago, she came out of nowhere in Okemo, Vt., to win the Eastern Regionals in Super Giant Slalom. William, also a terrific skier, realized after that competition that his twin sister’s potential in skiing was greater than his own. Her chief rival growing up, William is one of her biggest supporters.
“That’s when I knew it was her thing,” William said Friday from Vermont, where the Mangan family assembled to support Tricia. “It was pretty conclusive, and it was pretty cool. She was racing all these girls that had a lot more time on the snow and, on paper, seemed to have a lot more advantages.
“Her competitive nature comparatively was much greater than the other girls. It can be seen even now. Each step in her progression, she starts a little behind and then beats girls that were beating her. It’s totally a testament to her personality.”
You may not know the Mangan clan, who took the road less traveled. Martha and Dr. David Mangan raised their six children in Derby, home-schooling each of them for various periods. Tricia and William stayed home through eighth grade and competed in everything, from soccer to academics.
We’re not talking about a collection of ski bums. Connor graduated last year from Harvard, where he was on the men’s rowing team. Peter is on the rowing team at Georgetown, and last year William joined him. Andrew, 16, currently rows for Canisius High. Mary is 11 years old.
Tricia, born a few minutes after William in 1997, attended Nardin Academy. She balanced schoolwork and skiing before landing at Dartmouth College, where she’s planning to major in bio-medical engineering. You know how many women compete on the World Cup circuit while earning Ivy League educations?
Dartmouth offers 10-week academic terms rather than semesters, allowing enough flexibility for Mangan to pursue skiing. She also takes classes over the summer. In turn, U.S. team officials encouraged her to concentrate on academics without getting bogged down by offseason training.
“It’s super important to me,” she said. “My parents have always stressed the importance to us to have more than one venue. Skiing can be pretty stressful and pretty consuming in the middle of winter. It’s a huge roller-coaster ride of a sport. Going to school is really important to have that balance.”
Tricia’s meteoric rise speaks to her commitment. She’s a more mature and polished skier at age 19 than she was three years ago, when she in high school and finding her way into top competitions. But her general approach to beating William during their friendly rivalry – Go Fast – has not wavered.
For years, she heard stories in ski racing that sounded essentially the same. A young child (insert name) watching the Olympics on television was inspired by (insert name), fell in love with the sport, joined a ski academy and took a natural progression to the highest level.
Mangan found a different trail around life’s gates. She wasn’t raised in an expensive ski academy that fed high aspirations for kids and their parents. She skied in Ellicottville for fun, grew more competitive with age and is still evolving into the world-class skier who will compete Saturday.
It’s easy to understand why her father, an anesthesiologist at Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, has been grabbing extra shifts when possible. Three kids in top colleges and another in a private high school is expensive. Tack on another $48,000 for travel costs and equipment associated with Tricia’s ski-racing career.
“We make it work,” her mother said. “It’s what you do. We’re in a good position, but it’s not easy. She writes for a lot of grants. She’s working hard. She’s going to school, and we’re happy about that. It’s a crazy sport. You don’t know what could happen tomorrow. She made it happen. We made it happen.”
Look at the results.
Youth hockey teams travel far and wide in search of better competition when many can’t beat teams around the corner. It’s often a waste of time, money and energy. The Mangans didn’t need to entertain thoughts about Tricia skiing on a world-class level until she was the best in her own house.
Step One: Go fast.
Step Two: Beat William.
“William especially,” she said. “A lot of people go to ski academies or bigger resorts to chase the competition and more snow. Because I had William, I was always able to challenge myself to go faster even though it wasn’t as deep of a competitive group.”
In 2012, when she was 15 years old, she didn’t even realize reaching the under-16 nationals was a major achievement. “I didn’t enough know there was a race,” she said. “I thought it was camp, basically. I was shocked.” But when she returned in 2013, she was first on her second run and finished second overall.
She qualified for the national team. The idea that she could join the best in the world, ludicrous a few years earlier, started sinking in. She raised her standards. She started working harder and getting better. She’s not trying to beat William anymore. She’s taking a competitive spirit he helped instill down the mountain with her.
The Olympics no longer feel out of reach.
“Hopefully, this is only the first of my World Cups,” she said. “The next step is the Olympics, but I don’t really think about that. I like to think more about the process than the end goal. But who doesn’t want to go to the Olympics? Who knows? Maybe that will be a possibility someday.
“I’m just going to keep trying to ski faster every day. The only thing I’m thinking during a race is, ‘How can I go faster?’”