When Erin Zeli was hired as the Alpine skiing coach at Cheverus High in Portland, she heard about the team she would inherit, led by a girl who never falls and never loses.

“I was really excited to work with her,” Zeli said of senior Annesley Black. “I actually never gave her any advice because I didn’t want to mess her up or throw her off. I can’t do better than winning every race.”

Black showed she was human this winter. She fell in the SMAA championship meet and finished second in an earlier race.

But when the Class A state championships rolled around – even under a range of challenging weather conditions – Black again proved to be the best Alpine skier in Maine. At Shawnee Peak in Bridgton, she avenged an earlier loss to Fryeburg Academy’s Brooke Juneau by winning the giant slalom by 0.63 seconds, then cruised to victory in the slalom by nearly four seconds.

The victories gave Black, who lives in Cape Elizabeth and attended a ski academy in Vermont in her first year of high school, six individual state titles in six attempts.

She is our choice as Varsity Maine Girls’ Skier of the Year.

“I definitely felt that pressure,” Black said. “As a sophomore I had no expectations, but I got more pressure every year. I wanted to go in this winter and not really worry about the results, just try to enjoy it and prepare as best as I could.”

A letter of assurance from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point arrived in August and removed much of the uncertainty about where she would attend college, although she didn’t confirm that decision until this winter. In preparation for the physical demands of a boot camp that begins in July, she began a CrossFit regimen each morning before school to build up strength and endurance.

She also ran cross country in the fall and plans to continue with lacrosse this spring. In summer she likes hiking and mountain biking. She’s a straight-A student who takes five advanced placement classes and hopes to major in environmental engineering.

On the slopes, Black was Maine’s top finisher in both slalom and giant slalom at the Eastern high school championships at Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire and has one more USSA race coming up at Gore Mountain in New York.

She plans to continue skiing at West Point, which has a club team.

“I think the most fun I had was going to Easterns,” she said. “It’s been three years now and we all got to know each other really well. There were a lot of seniors on the team, so this was the last year for us. It was fun.”

Zeli also praised Black’s leadership skills and appreciated not only her encouragement of others but her fun-loving personality, right down to the trademark sparkling neck warmer she wore all season.

“On the bus rides she’s always so happy, and laughing and joking with all the kids,” Zeli said. “Everyone looked up to her. She was basically like an assistant coach.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

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