Hill-Murray freshman Taylor Voigt disappears before Alpine races for walks to calm herself, a technique she began this season.

Those casual strolls get replaced by about 35 seconds of downhill fury when it's time to race.

Nobody did it better this winter than Voigt, a first-time state champion and the 2022-23 Star Tribune Metro Girls Alpine Skier of the Year.

After finishing 20th as a seventh-grader and third last season, Voigt entered this season with big plans.

"I actually set a goal right after the state meet last year to come back and beat my third-place finish," Voigt said. "I also wanted to help my team and to have more fun than we were having in the past."

Plenty of smiling faces surrounded Voigt as she finished her second run at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. Her mark of 37.05 seconds meant capturing two state titles — one for her and one for the Pioneers.

Teammates Kate Reardon, Hailey Voigt and Liz Peroutka all contributed to the Pioneers' winning total of 163 points.

"I was so relieved," Voigt said. "A lot of people had been telling me, 'We're cheering for you,' and, 'We want you to win.' "

Voigt's introduction to ski racing owed to Team Afton coach Teresa Buechner Christenson, mother of Ashley Christenson, Voigt's best friend.

"I tried it because I didn't have a winter sport," Voigt said.

She made it her year-round focus, joining Team Afton, a club within the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association.

Climbing the ranks, Voigt placed sixth at the recent Rocky/Central U16 Junior Championships. That performance qualified her for the U16 Nationals taking place Monday to next Friday in Mission Ridge, Wash.

Those events are the latest in a string of strong performances, starting with the state meet. But that race almost didn't happen.

Stomach pain between her first and second runs at the Section 4 race left Voigt "hobbling and crying." She recovered to finish second overall behind Reardon.

At the state meet, Voigt surprised herself with a fast first run. She followed up with an even better second run to claim the championship.

"I felt really proud," Voigt said. "And I was happy for our team."