February 18, 2013

Skiing's big week: State championship time

It's a typically deep field with many talented skiers competing for the last time in a single-week format.

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The boys of Falmouth and the girls of Greely are looking to erase painful memories of slalom spills, while Yarmouth, Freeport and Merriconeag hope to add a little more hardware to the trophy case.

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Merriconeag’s John Burgess and five teammates hope the school can win its first state title in any boys’ sport. The girls team, though, is two-time defending Class C Nordic champion.

Tom Bell/Staff Writer

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The state championships are on tap this week, and senior Olivia Conrad is part of a Yarmouth powerhouse looking for a seventh straight overall Class B title.

Tom Bell/Staff Writer

Yes, the high school skiing state championships are upon us, the last incarnation of four events in three days we are likely to see for a while. Next year, the Nordic state meets are expected to remain during the February school vacation week but the alpine meets are likely to be held the Friday and Saturday of the following week.

Whether that change results in more skimeisters -- those hardy souls who ski all four races, two Nordic and two alpine -- at bigger venues (Sugarloaf, Sunday River?) remains to be seen.

This year, the Class A and Class C meets run Monday through Wednesday, in the Western Mountains and Aroostook County, respectively. Class B, held entirely at Black Mountain in Rumford, will run Wednesday through Friday.

The format for each meet is Nordic classical racing on the afternoon of Day 1, two-run giant slalom in the morning and Nordic freestyle in the late afternoon of Day 2, and two-run slalom in the morning and early afternoon of Day 3. Each Nordic race measures 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles.

Here's a look at each meet: 

CLASS A GIRLS: Mt. Blue is riding an eight-year streak as overall champion. The Cougar girls have won eight straight state titles, and are favored to do so again. The alpine venue is Mt. Abram in Greenwood. Nordic races will be held at nearby Black Mountain in Rumford.

Mt. Blue also won the alpine title last winter, in large part because some of Greely's top skiers fell in their opening slalom run. The Rangers -- who won alpine in 2011 -- are determined to make amends.

"We've got more depth this year," said Greely Coach Mark Ouellette, who has 16 girls on his alpine squad.

In the competitive Western Maine Championships, Greely's Elyse Dinan, Jordan Ouellette, Teal Otley and Jill Booth took four of the top six places in slalom, and freshman Otley took third in giant slalom. SMAA champion Scarborough could also be a factor.

Leavitt is the defending Nordic champion, but Portland is poised to bring home the first skiing state title in school history. Led by Abby Popenoe's third-place individual finish, the Bulldogs were third of 27 schools in the Sassi Memorial race, behind only Class B Yarmouth and Class C Merriconeag (the winner).

Individually, Gorham senior Marissa Roberts looks to defend her giant slalom crown and perhaps pick up slalom as well. Dinan, a Greely junior, is also among the alpine favorites.

In Nordic, Popenoe and training partner Emily Bland of Windham should be near the front. 

CLASS A BOYS: Falmouth ended a five-year Mt. Blue reign (and 12 in 14 years) last February, with a Nordic title to boot. Even so, the Falmouth alpiners feel it should have been a sweep; their only loss in three years still stings.

"I remember telling these kids," Falmouth Coach Tip Kimball said, "you can ski like your grandmother and win this thing. Just don't fall."

But fall they did. Only several superb second runs in slalom kept the overall title from slipping away to Mt. Blue as well.

Maranacook, Edward Little and Scarborough may make some noise as well, Kimball said. Skowhegan won in 2011.

In Nordic, Falmouth will attempt to defend its title against the likes of Mt. Blue, Fryeburg Academy, Leavitt and Oxford Hills.

Individually, Fryeburg senior Silas Eastman is the overwhelming favorite to sweep both Nordic races. On the hill, Falmouth's Alex Gowen and Dev Thomas, Curtis Paradis of Biddeford and Nick Papsadora of Thornton Academy are among the top skiers. 

(Continued on page 2)

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