FREEPORT — Certainly, amid the season’s first true snowfall, you would expect any Nordic skier worth his wax to be somewhat giddy. Four Freeport High seniors certainly conveyed that excitement earlier this week.

Even so, the more Bennett Hight, Yacob Olins, Kyle Dorsey and John Smail spoke of man buns and homemade jumps and bushwhacking their way through Black Mountain after high winds canceled a race (and every other school had the good sense to go home), the more you understood the true secret of their skiing success.

They’re having a blast.

“That is definitely true,” said Hight, who, along with Olins and Dorsey each registered a pair of top-six finishes at the state meet last winter to help Freeport win the Class B Nordic title. “We all love to ski, and skiing is more fun with others. We get out even on days when we don’t have to train and just bomb around in the woods on skis.”

As Hight, Olins, Dorsey and Smail (hereafter referred to as HODS) advanced from freshmen to sophomores to juniors, Freeport rose from third to second to first in Class B. This winter, the Falcons are overwhelming favorites to remain on top, both in the state and in the highly competitive Western Maine Conference.

“We’ve all known each other and competed and skied together for so long,” Dorsey said, “that there’s a constant drive to keep getting better, mostly, I think, because it’s something we all love to do.”


The other constant about HODS is that no one is ever quite sure, in any given race, how the letters will be arranged. Except for Smail, that is. He knows he’s unlikely to break into Freeport’s top three, but Smail is a converted Alpine skier convinced by Olins upon entering high school to join Nordic.

“They’ve been doing it a lot longer than me,” said Smail, who nonetheless placed 10th in classic in both conference and state meets last winter. “Freshman year, I came into it thinking, ‘Oh, it’ll be fun.’ But they made me step up to the next level, even if I didn’t want to.”

Bennett Hight was Freeport's top finisher last year in freestyle at the Western Maine Conference and state championships. The Falcons are favored to repeat as Nordic champions.

Bennett Hight was Freeport’s top finisher last year in freestyle at the Western Maine Conference and state championships. The Falcons are favored to repeat as Nordic champions. DW Action photo

Hight was Freeport’s top finisher in both WMC and Class B freestyle races, both times claiming third. In classic, Olins took top Falcon honors (third) at states and Dorsey did so (fourth) at the conference meet.

“We all swapped places pretty evenly last year, I feel like,” Hight said.

“No one of us was predominantly better than the other,” Dorsey added.

“Bennett’s definitely the best skate skier,” Olins said, “but on some days, he has a bad race.”


Joel Hinshaw, entering his 15th year as Freeport’s Nordic coach, said the lack of a pecking order leads to an environment that benefits everyone.

“They do drive each other to get out and train,” he said. “They challenge each other.”

Hinshaw describes Hight as a quiet talent who occasionally needs a push, Olins as outspoken and a technical skier who always wants answers, and Dorsey as the comedian of the group who sometimes flies under the radar. Smail anchors the quartet. A fifth senior, Perrin Davidson, serves as something of a paternal figure.

“He’s like the dad of the team,” Hinshaw said of Davidson. “He’s the one who keeps everyone in line in terms of not getting too crazy. The comedian and the other people tend to lose focus at times.”

Some of those times, the four fleet Falcons are simply lost in play, such as when they build jumps at Pineland Farms or turn a training day into a ski cross competition (as they did two years ago at the state meet in Presque Isle) or, when the Sassi Memorial was canceled in 2015, hike up the snowmobile trail at Black Mountain and play around on the ungroomed drifts.

“With the whole team, too, all skill levels,” Smail said. “We were all mashing around through the woods for like, five hours.”

They tend to flock together off the trails as well, taking part in Model United Nations and Ultimate frisbee and cross country. They roller ski together and did some bouldering this fall on the Pine Street ledges in town.

“It’s a way to get endurance strength training,” Hight said, “and still be super fun.”

Super and fun. Fun and super. No matter the order, those two words provide an apt description of Freeport’s fabulous foursome.

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