Monday, December 9, 2013
RUMFORD — High up the slope on Black Mountain, there was an ominous feeling that had nothing to do with the gray clouds and impending snowstorm.
Each time the radio crackled, it seemed, another Falmouth skier had fallen. What had seemed an insurmountable lead and a largely ceremonial end to a five-year reign by Mt. Blue was slipping through the gloved fingers of a Falmouth boys' Alpine team that had not lost a race in two years.
"We expected to win this thing like nothing," admitted Sam Hamilton, a Falmouth junior who looked at classmate Cooper Lycan with increasingly wide eyes as the first four Falmouth skiers tumbled during Friday's first run. "It was two of us standing up there. (Falmouth coaches) were on the radio just screaming, telling us we need to finish."
After a disastrous first run that knocked out two of its six skiers, Falmouth's final four of Alex Gowen, Joe Lesniak, Weston Scott and Hamilton responded with three of the four fastest runs to salvage the overall title by a mere four points over Mt. Blue, which claimed the Alpine crown.
"It's really bittersweet," said Hamilton, who placed 22nd as the only Falmouth skier with two clean runs. "It was difficult with two skiers down. I was the last skier up there (for the second run) and it was really nerve-wracking."
Falmouth entered the day with double-digit leads in both Alpine (21 points) and overall (33). Part of the morning was spent making posters for their coaches touting "back to back championships" and "undefeated for two years."
"I'd say we got a little cocky," Hamilton said. "But Mt. Blue's a heck of a team. They won it, for sure."
The first three Falmouth skiers -- Gowen, Lesniak and Scott -- all fell or missed a gate and had to hike back up the hill. Ben Hilfrank fell, then skied off the course. Hamilton throttled back and came across in 22nd place.
Lycan crossed the line in sixth, but inexplicably skipped the penultimate gate, and on a flat section to boot.
"I came off the headwall and I knew I had a good run," Lycan said. "I guess I just stopped focusing. I didn't even know."
That disqualification meant Falmouth was down to four racers -- all of whom would count for scoring purposes -- for the second run. None had finished the run higher than Hamilton in 22nd.
Meanwhile, Mt. Blue had three skiers among the top 15 -- led by Lucas Bonnevie's nearly 4-second lead over the field -- and a fourth skier one place behind Hamilton.
"We got the team together," said Falmouth Coach Tip Kimball, "and after we got over our disbelief and our anger, we were like, 'OK, what are we going to do about this?'"
Suddenly it was Mt. Blue protecting the big lead and Falmouth throwing caution to the wind. Gowen zipped down his second run in 41.79 seconds. Bonnevie, who hadn't lost a race all winter after spending the previous two years at a ski academy, bobbled near the bottom of his second run, lost a ski, and had to hike. He wound up tied for fifth.
The second-run times of Lesniak and Scott sandwiched that of eventual champion Curtis Paradis of Biddeford, whose combined total was 1 minute, 28.39 seconds. That lifted them into the mid-teens. Gowen climbed back from 48th to 23rd, and Hamilton again had to play it safe to ensure the overall title.
Mt. Blue won the Alpine crown, 99-108. In its first year competing in Class A after winning the last two Class B overall titles, Falmouth took the overall championship, 177-181, to end Mt. Blue's five-year run. Oxford Hills was third at 355.Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: