LENA MARTIN competes in the Maine Principals’ Association Class A Girls Nordic State Championships on Titcomb Moutain in Farmington earlier this season.

LENA MARTIN competes in the Maine Principals’ Association Class A Girls Nordic State Championships on Titcomb Moutain in Farmington earlier this season.


Lena Martin isn’t your ordinary high school athlete.

It’s not just because her sport, cross-country skiing, isn’t exactly common. It’s not just because she plays three different sports. It’s not just because she competes for a small, growing program.

No, more than anything, it’s because she won a state championship and won’t take any credit for it.

LENA MARTIN competes in the Telstar Relays for Brunswick earlier this season.

LENA MARTIN competes in the Telstar Relays for Brunswick earlier this season.

Martin, a senior at Brunswick High School, started skiing at a young age thanks to the influence of her father, who was an avid skier in his 20s and passed it along. Like her dad, it started as an interest for Martin, but grew into something more. In eighth grade, she started her competitive skiing career at Mt. Ararat.

Now, more than four years later, she’s the face of Dragon skiing and a Maine state champion.

Simply put, it runs in the family.

“I think that was pretty much the sole reason I got into skiing,” Martin said of her family’s influence. “Otherwise, I don’t really think I would have been introduced to it since there aren’t starter programs or rec. programs around for skiing.”

Coming together

While snow is usually plentiful in Maine, you won’t find high school skiing everywhere. A lot of schools don’t have teams at all, and the ones that do often don’t have cross-country trails. In Martin’s case, Brunswick has both a boys and girls team, but travels elsewhere to practice. Specifically, Freeport High School, where the Dragons trained this season.

Martin, daughter of Lisa and Burnham, headlined the girls team that had four skiers for the first time ever this season, and said that she and her teammates were warmly welcomed by the Falcons.

For both her state title preparation and the growth of the team, it was a crucial partnership.

“I think each member of the Brunswick team improved due to watching the experienced Freeport skiers and getting great coaching from Joel Hinshaw (Freeport’s coach),” Martin said. “I think the Freeport team was also able to transfer a level of fun and enjoyment of skiing to the Brunswick crowd that we would have missed on our own.”

“The four girls fit very well with us, Hinshaw said. “Especially Lena. She could have jumped right into a captain role for the Freeport ski team, she fit so well. She was a good role model for the younger girls and boys.”

With the coaching came serious training. In a mild winter like this one has been, Martin was forced to train off the trail. Around November, she started running, roller-skating and lifting weights to prepare for the season’s first snowfall.

When there was snow on the ground, Martin and the other skiers trained in intervals — skiing a certain distance at a steady intensity before backing off. When the ground was dry, the training shifted to interval running exercises and intense weight-room workouts.

On a weekly basis, there was only one day off for Martin and the Dragons. They practiced each day after school for about 90 minutes

— shorter, more intense runs. Then, on the weekends, the practices were longer and turned into more distance and volume-based workouts. When the trails were white, the team skied at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, but even if they weren’t, the training continued.

“She’s one of the best as far as work ethic,” Hinshaw said of Martin. “Just motivated to train. I think she knows how much it does take to train for nordic, upper and lower body. It takes a little bit more time. She’s just very motivated to do that.”

“It’s a little dependent on the weather, but we work out no matter what and do what we can to help our skiing,” Martin said.

Individually, Martin was motivated by Freeport skier Lily Johnston, who finished runner-up in both the classic and skate events at states in Class B. The classic event is more like a running movement, or “what you’d generally think of when you think of cross-country skiing,” while the skate motion mimics that of ice-skating.

“She is a faster and more experienced skier,” Martin said of Johnston. “It was great motivation to have her ahead of me in all the workouts and her company when she slowed down enough for me to keep up. “

Over the winter, Martin and company took trips to Presque Isle, Sugarloaf, Farmington, and “various other schools that have trails.” By the time the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Championships rolled around, she was feeling under the weather, but still managed to post fifth-and ninth-place finishes in the classic and skate, respectively.

Martin said the KVAC’s were “a lot of fun,” although performance-wise it didn’t go “quite as well,” but she was saving her best form for last. At the State Class A meet, she placed first in the classic and third in the skate.

But despite all the effort and time Martin put into the season, she quickly deflects any credit that comes her way.

“It was definitely exciting, but mostly, it was due to the Freeport team and the energy and motivation they provided,” she said. “Definitely the coaching and all the people on the team.”

“ Her parents are very supportive in her desire to ski,” Hinshaw said. “Just enjoying the sport for the fun of it. Skiing is a lifelong sport, so you’ve got to enjoy it first. She’s very motivated to challenge herself, and I think being with the Freeport skiers pushed her a little more than skiing by herself at Brunswick.”

More than anything, for Martin, the top finish put skiing on the map at Brunswick. At a school with a large athletic program, she wants to be part of a movement that puts skiing into the mix.

“The best part about it is that we don’t have a huge team,” Martin said of the state championship. “But I think we’ve brought it back a little as a team, and I think that really encourages the sport at Brunswick as something that we can be successful at and get more people to join.”

More than meets the eye

For a lot of high school athletes, one sport and one long season is enough. For Martin, it’s just a small piece of the pie. The senior also runs track and plays soccer for the Dragons, on top of playing the French horn in the marching band.

March is a rare lull in an always-hectic schedule for Martin, but it won’t last long. Outdoor track and field is around the corner, along with more action at her club soccer team, Seacoast United. It’s a lot to have on one plate, but thankfully, her friends are right there with her.

“Sports and other activities do limit my free time,” Martin said. “ However, most of my friends participate in any combination of the things I do as well, and are just as busy. Practices and other meetings for activities are enjoyable, and end up providing time to be with friends.”

When she isn’t competing on the trail, track, or pitch, Martin is often still outdoors.

She enjoys hiking and camping, and goes on skiing trips with her family and friends. Even with a highly competitive drive, skiing is much more than a competition to Martin. It’s what she calls a “life sport” and something she plans on doing for a long time.

“ I do really enjoy the competitive aspect of it, but it’s also fun to go on long skis and not worry about how fast your going,” she said. “It’s definitely a life sport, and even if you aren’t competing, you can definitely enjoy it.”

In fact, Martin has no definitive plans to ski competitively in college. Snow is a must at her destination, though, and she’s applied to schools in Maine, one in Colorado, and others in New England. She wants to play club or intramural soccer, but doesn’t know what’s in store on the slopes. To start, majoring in environmental studies will be the focus.

But Martin still has some time left in what’s already been an eventful and successful senior year at Brunswick.

So far, so good.

“ I’m very thankful to have had this training experience and this coaching experience this year,” Martin said. “It could have hit any other year, but I’m just happy that it did before I leave.”

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