Jack Elder moved to Yarmouth from Seattle in sixth grade with a penchant for skiing that involved mountains, mechanical lifts and gravity.

The ski program at Harrison Middle School, however, requires that all alpine racers also give cross-country skiing a chance.

“At first I didn’t really like it,” admitted Elder, now a 15-year-old sophomore at Yarmouth High. “Then it really grew on me.”

Not until eighth grade did Elder, now 6 feet 3 inches tall, truly embrace Nordic skiing. Two years later, he finds himself nearing the end of a remarkable season that included a seventh-place individual ranking in the Eastern High School championships. This followed the Junior Olympics, where he emerged as one of the top skiers of his age in the country.

“It was an awesome experience,” he said of competing the previous weekend in Soldier Hollow, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. “Ten days in Utah in the bright sun, the atmosphere was great.”

The state Class B freestyle state champion – and runner-up to Caribou’s Caleb Chapman in classical – Elder finished fifth in both freestyle and classical 5K races against some of the country’s top 14- and 15-year-olds. In a 3-by-1.6K relay race, Elder posted a time faster than anyone in his age group to help a New England quartet to a bronze medal.

Junior Olympics included skiers in three age groups ranging from 14 to 19. In overall competition against nine other regions, New England won for the fourth straight year. Three other Maine skiers competed: sister and brother Hadley and Nathan Moreau of Falmouth and Nick Michaud of Fort Kent. The Moreaus are home-schooled and compete for a club team and Michaud is a first-year student at Bates College who won a bronze medal in freestyle sprint for Older Juniors (18-19).

Junior Olympics are considered a breeding ground for future NCAA champions and U.S. Ski Team members. Elder, because of his performance, was one of 20 boys invited to a summer development camp in Craftsbury, Vt., organized by the U.S. Ski Team to identify talented up-and-comers.

In the fall, Elder trained with the Cumberland Nordic Club, which inherited alumni from the Maine Coast Nordic Club after it ceased operations in September, under the guidance of Cape Elizabeth Coach Nick Kline.

Both Elder and Kline were in Vermont over the weekend for the Eastern High School Nordic championships at the Mountain Top resort in Chittenden, where a ribbon of snow snaked through fields of brown.

Host Vermont won the five-state competition over Maine with Massachusetts third, New Hampshire fourth and New York fifth. Among Maine’s top performances were a 5-7-8 finish in a 5K freestyle race by Silas Eastman of Fryeburg Academy along with Elder and Nathan Moreau in a field of 104; a 5-11-14 finish by Eastman, Josh Espy of Waynflete and Elder in a 5K classical race; and a 6-9 finish by Molly Siegel of Gould Academy and Sadie James of Mt. Abram in a 5K classical race.

The previous weekend at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine’s depth proved too much for Vermont in the overall title chase at the J2 Championships, featuring boys and girls aged 14 and 15 competing in four races over three days.

The event also featured skiers from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Colorado. Several Mainers posted top 10 results including, in classical, Elijah McCurdy of Freeport (fourth), Ryan Washington of Caribou (eighth), Braden Becker of Yarmouth (ninth), Marcello Deluca (10th) and Sarah Doak of Stockholm (eighth).

In freestyle, it was Becker (sixth), Kamran Husain of Fort Kent (ninth) and, for girls, Sarah Wade of Farmington (seventh).

Mainers also fared well at the Alpine Eastern High School Championships this month at Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire. Leika Scott of Falmouth won the giant slalom and placed fifth in slalom, with Erin Luce of Mt. Abram taking ninth in slalom. Among boys slalom skiers, Lucas Bonnevie of Mt. Blue was second and Alec Daigle of Maranacook sixth.

 

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

gjordan@pressherald.com