— By

Staff Writer

Interesting scene on the baseball field at Yarmouth High School, on a day when the nation’s capitol was shoveling out from yet another storm with double-digit snow totals. With brown grass visible alongside the dirty gray parking lot, a host of Nordic skiers kicked and glided over the hard-packed snow.

”It’s small-scale, but it’s legit,” said Yarmouth Coach Bob Morse, who organized the ”Classic Sprints” for two dozen skiers from five coastal schools as a last-minute way to qualify for the state championships, which begin Tuesday at three locations.

The heavy rain that washed away abundant snow in late January has made life difficult for Nordic skiers, many of whom had only one chance at a classical race — during the the Western Maine Conference championships.

Some of the better skiers, including Emily Attwood of Cape Elizabeth, Nate Niles of Waynflete and Sam Humphries of Greely, opted instead for an Eastern Cup race in Vermont the day of the WMC meet, so they had to ski Thursday in order to be eligible, without a waiver, for the state championships in the classical discipline.

Niles, Humphries and Yarmouth senior Cam Woodworth, the defending Class B state champion in both classical and freestyle, finished within four seconds of each other, with Niles winning the race that took less than five minutes to complete. They’ve enjoyed a friendly rivalry this winter, with each of them beating the other two, depending on the day.

”You know they’re skiing hard all the time, so it makes you push yourself that much more,” said Woodworth, who trains with Niles and Humphries on the Maine Coast Nordic club. ”That’s definitely a huge reason why we’re having the success we are, because of that summer training.”

On Tuesday, all three will head to different parts of Maine. Humphries travels to Rumford for the Class A championships, whose Alpine component will be contested in Greenwood at Mt. Abram. Woodworth travels to Rangeley for the Class B affair, with the Alpine at Saddleback Mountain. Niles travels farthest, with Waynflete making the long trek to Fort Kent for the Class C championships, with Alpine at Lonesome Pines and Nordic at the 10th Mountain Ski Center.

The busiest day is Tuesday, with giant slalom scheduled in the morning and Nordic freestyle in the afternoon. Slalom races will be held Wednesday and will determine the Alpine champions. The events conclude Thursday, with Nordic freestyle, after which Nordic and overall champions will be crowned, as well as skimeisters, those energetic individuals who take part in all four disciplines.

Here’s a brief look at the three meets:

CLASS A

Mt. Blue is the five-time defending girls’ state champion and remains the team to beat. For boys, Mt. Blue has won nine of the past 10 titles, including the past three in a row.

Leavitt appears most likely to give the Mt. Blue boys a run for the title. In the recent Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships, the Hornets edged Mt. Blue in giant slalom and both cross country disciplines, only to get walloped in slalom because of one of their top skiers fell in the second run and dropped from third to 49th.

CLASS B

Yarmouth has a four-year winning streak in the boys’ overall competition and three years among girls. The Clippers showed their continued strength by winning the Western Maine Conference championships, although Falmouth’s boys were right on their heels.

Another team in the mix this winter is Camden Hills, dropping down from Class A. While a girls’ Alpine title is within reach, the overall title probably is not, said Camden Hills Alpine Coach Chris Christie.

”With Alpine and Nordic, I don’t see anybody touching Yarmouth,” Christie said. ”They seem to be pretty solid.”

Mountain Valley and Maranacook will also be in the mix, as will Mt. Abram, winner of the girls’ overall Mountain Valley Conference title.

Individually, it will be interesting to see if Attwood, the defending champ in both Nordic disciplines, can hold off challengers such as Falmouth senior Sarah Abromson and Yarmouth senior Becca Bell, who won the WMC skimeister competition.

CLASS C

There was much consternation about holding the Alpine state championships at Lonesome Pines in Fort Kent, on a hill of less than 500 vertical feet.

”I think we alleviated most of those concerns after I did a pre-inspection of the facility,” said Galen Sayward, the former Mt. Blue coach who has been a technical delegate for international events in such countries as Japan, Germany and Canada and worked at two Olympics.

Sayward likened the pitch at Lonesome Pines (on the hill, not in the trees) to that of Portland’s Eastern Promenade, only much longer.

”You can carry speed,” he said, ”because you’re carrying it a long way.”

Nor does he buy the argument that heavier skiers will have an advantage, because of the shorter slope. He pointed out the speeds of women on the World Cup circuit, ”traveling just as fast as some of the guys are. It depends on how well they ski, if they know how to make the turn and control the edge.”

Bennett Guerette, who coaches the Winthrop Alpine team with his brother, Doug, was among those who objected to the site.

”I wouldn’t want to be a senior and have my state meet there,” he said. ”I wouldn’t feel it would be challenging enough.”

Christie, the Camden Hills coach, remembers his only trip to Aroostook County was for his high school state championship.

”For some of these kids, it might be their only trip to The County,” he said. ”As long as the venue is safe, it’s fine with me.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be

contacted at 791-6425 or at:

[email protected]