All the snow that fell on Maine during Wednesday’s storm must be a boon for high school ski racers, right?
Perhaps not. At least not immediately for those competing in the Western Maine Conference Alpine championships Thursday at Shawnee Peak.
“They’ll push it off the hill,” said Mark Ouellette, coach of the defending Class A state champion Greely girls’ team. “It’s like oiling a NASCAR track. It’s non-beneficial. If you can’t till it in and let it set a few days, just move it.”
Both slalom and giant slalom champions are to be determined Thursday. On the Nordic side, the WMC freestyle championships were postponed from Wednesday to Monday at Libby Hill in Gray and the conference classical race remains set for Saturday at Stark’s Hill in Fryeburg.
Rosters for the state meets – six skiers per team per event – are due to the Maine Principals’ Association office Tuesday, which adds importance to the conference meets. The SMAA, Kennebec Valley and Mountain Valley conferences all have championships scheduled in the next few days, so poles will be gripped a little more tightly.
“Not so much the teams,” said Yarmouth Coach Bob Morse, “but especially the kids on the bubble. Usually a coach picks the top four and the next two are open. You want to see who can handle the pressure of a championship meet. If the eighth skier comes in and has a great conference race, then they’re on the state team.”
Of course, many coaches are scrambling to fill even four scoring slots, much less six for a full team. Ouellette has six boys on his Alpine team, but 18 girls, which may be the state’s largest contingent.
“That’s where the difficulty comes in,” Ouellette said, “because we’re competitive across the board. The No. 7 skier for us could be 1 or 2 for someone else.”
With three giant slalom and three slalom races this winter – plus previous state championship experience – Ouellette has plenty of results to consider. Seniors Elyse Dinan, Teal Otley and Jill Booth are proven. The final three slots in each discipline are tougher to determine. Do you favor a fast freshman over an upperclassman with championship experience? Ouellette isn’t sure.
“The Western Maine Conference is like our pre-states,” he said. “Three or four people are going to battle for the last slot on each side.”
Team-wise, the WMC Alpine meet figures to be tightly contested between Greely and upstart Cape Elizabeth, which last year finished a distant eighth (of eight schools) behind Greely. For boys, Falmouth is the defending champ, but Freeport, Yarmouth, Greely and Lake Region (“young but fast,” Ouellette said) are in the mix.
“It is fun to watch all these kids get together and ski well,” said Freeport Alpine Coach Jay Thomas, whose team moved up to Class B this winter. “You never know what will happen.”
Dinan is the defending girls’ slalom and giant slalom conference champion. Noah Lobozzo of Gray-New Gloucester has a shot at an individual title, provided he stays upright. He was top five in Class B in giant slalom and slalom last winter, but has finished only one race this winter. The rest were Did Not Finish or Disqualified.
His teammates, Erick Wilcox and Keaton McEvoy, are the WMC skimeister favorites.
WITH THE SEPARATION of Nordic and Alpine state meets, downhill skiers will have plenty of down time during school vacation week. All three state Nordic meets are scheduled for Feb. 19-21. The three Alpine meets don’t begin until Feb. 27-28.
“It’s imperative that the kids get out and ski during vacation,” Ouellette said. “They must ski. If you take a week off, the whole balance, rhythm and movement gets thrown off.”
SATURDAY’S CLASSICAL RACE in Fryeburg will be only the second of the season for many of the WMC Nordic skiers, unless they’ve been on the Eastern Cup circuit.
The first, of course, was the Sassi Memorial, won by Kaelyn Woods of Gray-New Gloucester and Braden Becker of Yarmouth.
“We’re not going in with any race experience,” said Morse, of Yarmouth, which may yield some surprises.
THE SOCHI OLYMPICS may attract more young skiers to woodland trails and gated slopes. Fryeburg Nordic Coach John Weston said the Winter Games typically provide a boost to skiing.
“Unfortunately the excitement generated comes toward the end of the season,” he said, “but it’s all good.”
Weston said Nordic coaches around the state have seen many endurance athletes opting for spikes instead of skis. Fryeburg is one school where indoor track numbers are gaining at the expense of Nordic skiing.
“Maybe not a lot of kids but enough for coaches to take notice,” Weston said. “Again, those trends can always change.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: