Emily Attwood had just won the Class B classical championship race — her sixth straight state title — in convincing fashion. More than a minute separated the Cape Elizabeth High senior from the other 59 skiers who had raced through five rolling kilometers of the Rangeley Lakes Trails Center earlier this month.

Attwood’s first topic of conversation was neither her dominance nor course conditions. No, she talked tattoos, in particular, the elaborate henna tattoo covering her right hand, and similar ones on the hands of her teammates.

”Skyler did them,” said Attwood, referring to Skyler Dunfey, a Cape Elizabeth junior. ”She’s really artistic. Did them all freehand, too.”

The tattoos were temporary, lasting about a week. Attwood’s legacy will linger much longer.

For the second year in a row, she enjoyed an unbeaten high school season in Maine.

For the second year in a row, she is our choice as MVP for girls’ skiing.

”She’s a great kid,” said Shane MacDowell, Cape Elizabeth’s first-year Nordic coach. ”Modest, hard-working, pretty much all the values you look for in a student-athlete.”

Granted early acceptance to Middlebury College, where she plans to continue her skiing (and running) career, Attwood might have been tempted to cruise through the balance of her senior year. Might have been, were her motivations external.

”Her dedication to the sport is incredible,” MacDowell said. ”She was always wanting to get better instead of settling.”

One moment that sticks out for MacDowell is Attwood’s performance in the Sassi Memorial at Black Mountain in Rumford. Traditionally the one Nordic race that draws the best high school skiers in the state, regardless of class, the Sassi switched from classical to freestyle this winter because of slick conditions.

Before the race, Attwood grabbed the wrong set of poles, the set with one missing metal tip. They worked fine warming up in softer snow, so she stuck with them.

”I didn’t think it would make that much of an impact,” Attwood said, ”but because the snow (on the trail) was icy underneath, it would slip. As I got more tired, my technique kind of broke down. It was almost like pulling with one arm.”

MacDowell could see Attwood’s frustration, particularly while climbing, but he also got a good look at her gumption.

”She wasn’t giving up by any means,” he said. ”A lot of kids would have packed it in. She just dug deeper. It’s one of the things that defines the kind of skier and person Emily is.”

Attwood won the race by a second and a half over Sarah Abramson of Falmouth. Attwood was quick to praise Abramson’s performance — more than 25 seconds faster than the other 165 girls in the field — and downplay the pole problem. A year ago, Attwood beat Abramson by two minutes and every other Sassi competitor by more than half a minute.

”It’s always exciting in a competitive racing sport because each year, someone new gets better,” Attwood said. ”This year Sarah Abramson took off, and Becca Bell (of Yarmouth) really pushed me (in the Class B freestyle state championship).”

Attwood’s main goal was a return to the Junior Olympics, which she did by qualifying in Eastern Cup races throughout northern New England. Last weekend she learned she would be one of two Maine high school skiers — along with Fort Kent senior Nick Michaud — competing in the prestigious national event, scheduled for March 8-13 in Presque Isle.

She’s ready for bigger things, but also a bit sad about what is left behind.

”I love high school Nordic races,” she said. ”There’s such a fun atmosphere, racing with people you’ve been with since middle school. It’s such a close-knit community. When I’m out on the course, I hear voices I don’t recognize, because everyone’s cheering for everyone. Definitely a special type of sport.”

Maybe it takes one, to know one.

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

[email protected]