One of the feel-good stories of the Mt. Blue girls Nordic team this season has to be the strong return of Julia Ramsey.

Ramsey was forced to miss the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships and the Class A championships last season because of mononucleosis, a viral infection that causes fever, sore throat, and in some cases, a swollen liver or spleen.

It also causes constant fatigue. Even when the four- to eight-week rest period is over, it takes time for the immune system to build back up.

For Ramsey, that left some questions on how well she would perform entering this season.

“Last year was a really rough year. I’ve been just doubting myself a lot about whether I’m still sick, how I’m feeling, and just being really anxious about that.”

Those questions were likely erased back on Jan. 14 at the Hornet Classic at Leavitt Area High School in Turner. Ramsey had a second-place finish during the event, finishing with a time of 16:09.

“(The Hornet Classic) was nice because I think I proved to myself that I’m actually healthy and ready to race the full season,” Ramsey said.

“She’s having a really strong season,” Mt. Blue assistant coach Jeremy Reed said. “She was sick last year, which was really frustrating for her, and she wasn’t able to ski as fast as she would have liked. So she’s kind of testing the waters this year and finding them to be very good. It’s been really fun to watch her get her confidence back and start taking names.”

Whatever questions remained were blown away on Saturday, when Ramsey took first place with a time of 16:59 at the Sassi Memorial 5K Nordic Classical ski races at Black Mountain in Rumford. The win helped the Cougars top Maranacook for the best team score, 25-47. Teammate Meg Charles aided in the effort, finishing third with a time of 17:47.

“That’s part of the reason I was so kind of anxious at the beginning of the season… I really wanted to end strong for my senior year and have a really good year,” Ramsey said. “Just missing part of a year and not knowing where I’m at or if I’m ever going to be able to reach the level I was two years ago and keep building off of that, that’s kind of how I was feeling before this. But after this, I’m definitely feeling a lot better and a lot more confident in myself.”

The results are showing for Ramsey, in more ways than one.

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The Mt. Blue boys Nordic team had a day as well at the Sassi Memorial.

Thanks to the effort of Tucker Barber, who finished first individually with a time of 13:38, the Cougars had a first-place team finish, barely edging Maranacook by a score of 39-40.

Mt. Blue certainly doesn’t seem to lack depth, either, as five of the top 20 spots in the race were owned by Cougars. Aside from Barber — who won the race by almost a full minute — Nolan Rogers finished ninth (15:30), Isaiah Reid finished 12th (15:46), Sam Stinson finished 17th (15:59) and Sam Smith finished 20th (16:13).

“I know with the boys it’s been really awesome to see them doing intervals and time trials and what not because there’s Tucker (Barber) and then there’s about five or six boys that are all right together and so close in speed,” Mt. Blue’s Julia Ramsey said. “So that really shows the depth of at least our boys team, and that’s really promising. I think going into KVACs and states that we’re going to have another great year on the boys side of things. And it’s really awesome because they’re all kind of competitive within themselves and they want to keep getting better and better, so they’re all building each other up and rising to the top.”

The effort was only a slight letdown from the Cougars’ performance at the Hornet Classic back on Jan. 14, when six Mt. Blue skiers finished within the top 20 spots: Reid in fifth place (14:06), Rogers in eighth place (14:19), Stinson in ninth place (14:25), Smith in 11th place (14:37), Mick Gurney in 18th place (15:00) and Dom Giampietro in 19th place (15:07). Mt. Blue also finished first in that race from a team score perspective, edging Freeport 33-34.

• • •

Both the Maranacook boys and girls Nordic teams had excellent showings at the Sassi Memorial, as both teams finished second behind Mt. Blue.

Laura Parent gave Ramsey a run for her money in the girls race, finishing second with a time of 17:29. Abby Despres followed not far behind, finishing sixth (18:07).

Zach Holman finished as the top Black Bear skier on the boys side, placing fourth with a time of 14:58. Teammate Mark McLaughlin finished seventh (15:16).

The performance was a slight fallback for the girls, who finished first at the Hornet Classic on Jan. 14 as well as their home race – Maranacook Wave – on Jan. 21.

The boys have been consistently following right behind Mt. Blue throughout the regular season, finishing third behind the Cougars and Freeport at the Hornet Classic, as well as finishing second to Mt. Blue at Maranacook Wave.

Staff Writer Drew Bonifant contributed to this report.

Dave Dyer can be reached at: 621-5639

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer