February 25, 2010

Maine skiers get glimpse of an Olympian in action

GLENN JORDAN

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Staff Writer

Perhaps the arrival of all this snow throughout Maine had nothing to do with last weekend's Eastern Cup Nordic skiing event at Black Mountain in Rumford.

Then again, the presence of Vancouver-bound Olympian Kris Freeman gave more than 200 young skiers throughout New England a chance to compete against the best in the country. It may have been the ideal start to what promises to be a winter packed with Nordic activity in Maine.

''They really enjoyed watching Kris Freeman fly up High School Hill three times,'' said longtime Yarmouth High Coach Bob Morse, who sent three of his skiers to the two-day event. ''They said it was quite an experience. They learned a lot.''

Freeman, 29, is from Andover, N.H. He will be taking part in his third Winter Games next month at Whistler Olympic Park, north of Vancouver. He was one of eight Nordic skiers named on Tuesday to the U.S. Olympic team. More may be added later this month.

In a 15-kilometer freestyle race Sunday at Black Mountain, Freeman finished more than a minute ahead of a field of 103, in 35 minutes, 24.7 seconds. Caribou High graduate Russell Currier was second in 36:32.4.

Yarmouth senior Cam Woodworth, the reigning Class B state champion in freestyle and classical, was 47th in 41:53.0.

Freeman's presence was ''a goodwill gesture,'' said Charlie Woodworth, Cam's father. ''It allows guys like Cam and his peer group to see the pinnacle of the U.S. Ski Team in the living flesh. This is how fast they're skiing compared to what we're doing.''

Emily Attwood, a senior at Cape Elizabeth High, watched Freeman hop-skate up the course's famed incline as if he were barely breaking a sweat.

''I couldn't even believe how fast he was going up High School Hill,'' Attwood said. ''It was just incredible. He has a ton of power. That hill is real steep at the top, and watching him go over the top, it almost looked effortless.''

Attwood, like Woodworth the reigning freestyle and classical Class B state champion, took part in a 10K women's race on Sunday. She placed 14th of 72 and was third in her age group (18-19), gaining valuable points toward qualifying again for the Junior Olympics, scheduled for March in Presque Isle.

Waynflete senior Nate Niles, from South Freeport, is also among those vying for a Junior Olympics berth. He placed 12th of 89 on Saturday in a classic sprint (won by Sidney's Ben Koons, who will represent New Zealand in the upcoming Olympics) and 51st of 103 in Sunday's 15K.

''There weren't as many college kids because there was a carnival going on at St. Lawrence,'' Attwood said. ''But it was still a pretty good-sized race.''

Two Eastern Cup weekends remain, each with two days of racing, Feb. 6-7 at Stowe, Vt., and Feb. 20-21 at Hanover and Plymouth, N.H.

The next big high school race, the Sassi Memorial, takes place Jan. 30 at Black Mountain and draws nearly every high school team in the state.

''That race is probably the biggest high school race of the season,'' said Attwood, the defending champion. ''It's bigger than states because almost every team comes.''

Most conference championships are scheduled for the first week in February, with the state championships beginning Feb. 16 in Fort Kent, Rangeley and Rumford/Locke Mills.

This weekend, Morse is bringing about 30 Yarmouth skiers and another 15 from Gray-New Gloucester to the White Mountain Classic 30K in Jackson, N.H. Charlie Woodworth will be skiing Saturday's race -- the first event of the New England Marathon series -- while his son and the rest of the high school skiers will be touring the trails.

''They get to ski 30K, and yet it's not a race,'' said Woodworth, who will compete in the 50-54 men's masters division among a sold-out field of 200. ''It's a fun way to get good training in and have it be a team-bonding experience. The skiing is beautiful there.''

As for traveling to New Hampshire with a rival school, ''We're all part of the same conference,'' Morse said. ''This sport, it's a friendly sport.''

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

gjordan@pressherald.com

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