At the dawn of the winter season, longtime Yarmouth Nordic ski coach Bob Morse presented senior Braden Becker with surprising news.
The coach did not think Becker, unquestionably a leader and the defending Class B individual champion in both classic and freestyle, should be a captain.
“At first I was like, ‘I’d like the title,’ ” Becker said. “But as the season progressed I realized that I can step back and take care of some of my goals. There are other people who can lead the freshmen and take care of other details.”
As Morse knew, Becker had aspirations beyond high school skiing. As a member of the Maine Winter Sports Center’s junior racing team, Becker had trained through the summer and fall and planned to race four Eastern Cup weekends in hopes of qualifying for the junior nationals scheduled for Stowe, Vt.
So there was a lot on his plate.
Because of Becker’s outside commitments, Morse chose Sam Alexander and Jasper Houston to captain the Clippers. It was a decision that worked out well for everyone.
Yarmouth ran away with the Class B Nordic state title. Becker won all but one of his high school races, including the prestigious Sassi Memorial and the Class B classical state championship, and not only qualified for junior nationals but achieved All-America honors for placing seventh in a 10-kilometer classic race.
He is our choice for Maine Sunday Telegram male skier of the year.
“Sam and Jasper were fantastic as captains, and that reduced the pressure for Braden,” Morse said. “He could eliminate the stress and move on.”
Juggling racing and recovery time between high school and Eastern Cup activities proved challenging for Becker, but Morse and MWSC Coach Will Sweetser helped him strike an appropriate balance.
“They’re the reason I was able to succeed,” said Becker, who also professed appreciation to Yarmouth assistant John Sullivan and Amber Dodge of the MWSC. “My coaches were incredibly understanding when I had to sit out and take a race off. That made all the difference in my season.”
And when, because of weather, the Western Maine Conference freestyle championship was postponed from a Thursday to a Monday – a planned rest day in preparation for an important weekend of Eastern Cup races – Morse told Becker the team needed him.
“I understand,” came the response. “I’ll be racing.”
Becker, who had won the WMC classical race two days earlier by more than a minute over runner-up Elijah McCurdy of Freeport, won that skate race by 37 seconds over teammate Carter Hall as the Clippers held off Merriconeag and Falmouth to win the WMC team title.
The following weekend in New Hampshire, Becker earned a coveted spot on New England’s junior national team. The effort may have cost him the following week at the Class B state championships, however, when he won the classical 5K on a Thursday but managed only a third in freestyle on Friday, half a minute behind Hall and one second behind Alexander.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to lose to anyone else,” Becker said. “By that point I had qualified for junior nationals. I was ready to share the victory with my team, which was awesome.”
There was plenty of recovery time before the junior nationals, held at Stowe’s picturesque Trapp Family Lodge. Late in his first race, a 10K classic, Becker received word that he was among the top 15 and closing. With about a kilometer of mostly climbing remaining, “that was the place to really turn it up,” he said. “I definitely wanted to leave it all there.”
He wound up seventh, only 53 seconds behind the winner.
“Most of those kids who make (junior nationals) are enrolled in ski schools or they’re home schooled,” Morse said. “To pull it off was pretty amazing.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or: