RUMFORD – With its top three Nordic skiers lost to injury or transfer, the Yarmouth High boys’ ski team appeared to be in rebuilding mode.
Just last week, the Clippers lost to tiny Merriconeag in the Western Maine Conference championships, and in late January they managed only a tie for seventh in the all-comers Sassi Memorial classical race.
But when the boys in the bovine-inspired, blue-and-white-splotched suits burst forth from the starting line Thursday afternoon at blustery Black Mountain, their familiar magic returned.
Braden Becker, a junior, won for the second straight day as Yarmouth skiers claimed half of the top 10 spots in the Class B boys’ freestyle state championship race to sew up the school’s second straight Nordic title. Coupled with a successful morning in giant slalom, the Clippers carry a 51-point cushion over Maranacook into Friday’s concluding slalom race for the overall crown.
“I guess we showed up to race,” said Becker, who won Thursday’s 5-kilometer freestyle by four seconds (in 12 minutes, 20 seconds) over Thomas Faraday of Mt. Abram, to go along with Wednesday’s 14-second victory in classical, also over Faraday. “It was an amazing season. No one was expecting it.”
The girls’ Nordic team was similarly dominant, even with senior leader Sarah Becker out with the flu. Fellow captain Olivia Conrad led a 5-6-7-9-10 freestyle finish to give the Clippers the Nordic title, 52-69 over Caribou.
“It was tough not to have her, but I think we all skied for her,” Conrad said. “We call it the Pain Cave. We were going to have to be in the Pain Cave (Thursday) to make up for not having her.”
Sophomore Emma Torres, freshman Lucy Alexander and sophomore twins Caitlin and Ellie Teare followed Conrad into the top 10 of a field that numbered 54, all of whom battled a bone-chilling wind until reaching the sheltering woods.
“It was a very windy, cold Pain Cave,” said Conrad. “It was not a very pleasant Pain Cave, not that a Pain Cave is supposed to be pleasant in the first place.”
The Clippers were a close second to Mt. Abram in the morning giant slalom, and hold a virtually insurmountable 113-point lead over Maranacook after three of four events in the quest for their seventh straight overall title.
“That’s a big shock and big surprise,” Yarmouth Coach Bob Morse said of the twin Nordic titles. “I’m very pleased, but slalom is the equalizer. I’ve seen it go topsy turvy, so it’s one big day coming up.”
Backing up Becker’s winning freestyle performance, junior Sam Alexander placed third, seniors Jackson Hall and Chester Jacobs were fourth and sixth, and junior Jasper Houston finished ninth of 52.
“Everybody had one of the best races of their season,” said Hall, who was also fourth in classical after never before finishing among the top 10 in the WMC championships. “Black Mountain has been pretty good to us.”
Maranacook senior Caroline Colan won the girls’ freestyle race after also winning classical on Wednesday. Her time of 15:04 was 13 seconds better than runner-up Dana Hatton of Cape Elizabeth.
Earlier in the day, Maranacook junior Alec Daigle and Mt. Abram junior Elise Luce won giant slalom titles in blizzard-like conditions as snow whipped sideways across the Lower Androscoggin trail.
“The course was two seconds faster than normal, so I think that caught people off guard,” said Daigle, the 2012 Class B slalom champ who trains at Black Mountain. “I almost fell in my first run. I was pretty out of control.”
Daigle throttled back slightly in his second run, finishing in 45.23 seconds after his blazing 44.70 initial offering.
“I was going for it,” he said. “I mean, it was cold, but other than that, (conditions were fine). It was really grippy, just hard-packed snow.”
Noah Lobozzo of Gray-New Gloucester was more than a second back, with Cape Elizabeth’s R.J. Sarka and Peter Higgins finishing third and fourth.
Fifth-place Matt Highland of Yarmouth was one of four Clippers to finish among the top 15, giving Yarmouth a 39-48 Alpine lead over Maranacook, with Spruce Mountain third at 59.
Even with top Alpine skier Drew Grout out following hand surgery and his brother, Tucker, falling on the first run, the Clippers stood tall thanks to Luke Lockwood (ninth), Ethan Masse (12th) and Matt Woodbury (13th). Two of Maranacook’s top three skiers also fell, putting Yarmouth in the catbird seat for Friday’s concluding slalom race.
In girls’ giant slalom, Luce won for the third year in a row, following a two-year run by her sister, Emily.
The wind picked up for the girls’ race, resulting in snow whipping across the course, obscuring patches of ice. Two racers — Courtney Burby of Caribou and Erin Guilmet of Maranacook — required evacuation by sled after crashing on the steepest part of the course.
“A lot of (skiers) had problems because they couldn’t see the terrain, so they bobbled or fell,” Luce said. “And it was really windy, so the gates were moving. It was OK that I couldn’t fully see because I knew the terrain from slipping it (during prerace inspection) and from skiing here before.”
Runner-up Lydia Morin of Camden Hills finished more than a second behind Luce, with Yarmouth’s Chapin Dorsett five seconds behind in third.
Mt. Abram leads the girls Alpine competition over Yarmouth, 40-46.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: