Monday’s rain may have put a damper on the local high school skiing season, but not before many Nordic teams kicked off the rust Saturday at the Telstar Relays in Bethel.
Under a low-key format featuring four-skier teams made up of two girls and two boys each skiing a leg of 3 kilometers, Yarmouth finished with four squads among the top 13 and had the fastest overall quartet (of 67).
“I’m pretty pleased,” said Coach Bob Morse, in his 33rd season guiding the Clippers. “This is the first time Yarmouth has won the Telstar Relays in a number of years. It’s usually Gould (Academy) or Mt. Blue or Maranacook.”
Saturday’s emphasis was more on getting out and skiing well than on posting times or beating opponents. Nearly 300 skiers took part.
Braden Becker, Ellie and Caitlin Teare, and Carter Hall combined for a winning time of 43 minutes, 17 seconds. Three other teams managed to break 44 minutes for the 12K relay: Gould Academy, Portland and Merriconeag.
“Most coaches are just letting the kids get in a race without trying to win it,” said Merriconeag Coach John Tarling, whose top team consisted of Lily Tupper, Samantha Pierce, Graham Roeber and Forrest McCurdy. “We had two teams and we tried to make them somewhat balanced.”
Merriconeag graduated five excellent skiers from last year’s team, which won both the girls’ and boys’ Class C Nordic titles.
“It’s hard to replace them but we’ve got some good kids stepping up,” Tarling said. “We’ll be a factor, especially in our class. We have six or eight pretty good skiers and some new kids who I’m sure by the end of the year will be coming along.”
Yarmouth won the boys’ and girls’ Class B Nordic titles last winter and shows no signs of slipping, although Morse had twice as many girls (20) skiing in Bethel as boys. Yarmouth was one of several teams that headed north for a minicamp during the holiday break. The Clippers spent three nights in Millinocket and skied four days.
Merriconeag did something similar in Rangeley and Freeport went to Jackson, N.H.
“We skied three to four hours each day,” said Freeport Nordic Coach Joel Hinshaw. “We were able to do classic and skate. That was well worth it.”
Lizzy Martin of Freeport posted the fastest girls’ leg in Bethel. Her time of 10:10 was one of the three to break 11 minutes. The others were Pierce (10:25) of Merriconeag and Emma Torres (10:56) of Yarmouth.
“We knew Lizzy had been training hard this fall,” Hinshaw said. “A lot of times, summer and fall really make the skier and you just fine-tune it during the winter. So it was interesting to see that the training paid off. She had plenty of energy and was able to focus on technique.”
The Falcons lost three girls to a variety of causes (transfer, injury, indoor track) and only have five on a squad that usually reaches double digits. The boys have only two seniors, Eli McCurdy and Nick Nelson, but six freshmen, including Bennett Hight, who posted one of the top individual times Saturday in Bethel.
“He has a really good engine and motivation,” Hinshaw said. “This fall we’ve been working on his technique and he put it together Saturday.”
Hinshaw said timing and muscle memory can be improved during dryland training, as well as an understanding of switching gears during a race.
“A lot of the kids love first gear and never get out of it,” he said.
Early snow has also been a boon to motivation. Many years the first race can be the first time on snow.
“Or they’re running and they get really tired or injured because they’re not runners,” Hinshaw said. “They get bored and they get frustrated because they didn’t sign up to be on the track team.”
For the past eight years, Freeport or Fort Kent has won the Class C girls’ overall state title. The same holds true for boys over the past 10 years.
Not this winter, however. Freeport has moved up to Class B and will mix it up with the likes of Yarmouth and Maranacook.
“The kids are excited to be in Class B,” Hinshaw said. “Now they’re going to race against the teams they race against all winter instead of turning around and racing against all the (Aroostook) County teams.”
ALPINE: Monday’s rain forced cancellation of the season’s first Western Maine Conference Alpine race at Shawnee Peak. Extreme cold prevented some earlier races at Black Mountain.
“High school ski racing is a strange deal,” said Falmouth Coach Tip Kimball, who also had to cancel an early-season practice at Sugarloaf because of the cold. “You’re dealing with weather conditions and transportation and school closings. It’s too cold, it’s too warm, it’s too wet. You just never know. But I think we’ll settle in.”
The winter semester ski program at Carrabassett Valley Academy siphoned off several Falmouth skiers, leaving Kimball with only five boys and four girls. Graduation took a significant toll and a few sophomores who skied last winter decided to concentrate on other sports year-round.
“I guess you would call this a rebuilding year,” Kimball said.
Still, Falmouth came only two points shy of Class A overall girls’ champion Oxford Hills last winter despite having only three Alpine skiers, meaning a ghost skier added last-place points to Falmouth’s slalom and giant slalom team scores.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: