WATERVILLE — With less snow than usual falling so far this winter, on top of restrictions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, high school skiers were wondering what would be in store for them this season. Those questions were answered on Friday night, when Mt. Ararat along with Camden Hills, Maranacook, Mt. Abram, Mt. Blue, and Spruce Mountain hit the Quarry Road Trails in Waterville to open up their season.

It was the first meet of the season for the Eagles, something that had been a long time coming after an offseason that felt like 10 years rather than 10 months.

The Eagles have five total skiers this season, one boy and four girls. For the lone boy Parker Libby, it was his first ever race after picking up the sport this season.

“It was different than I imagined, the hills were a bigger challenge then I expected going in,” explained Libby.

When asked what it was like to try a different sport during the pandemic, Libby didn’t hesitate with his response.

“It’s awesome, I decided to try out the sport for the competition and the grind the grind that comes with it,” said Libby. “It’s been a blast so far.”

When there was enough the snow, the Eagles practiced on the practice football field at the high school. But with the lack of snowfall, Mt. Ararat head coach Kevin Leighton has gotten creative this season in thinking of ways for his skiers to train.

“We’ve been doing a lot of dryland activities including running and technique training,” Leighton explained. “We got to do some roller skiing in the beginning which seemed to get the team into their grove early on.”

For the Eagles girls team, the group consists of three seniors and a freshman.

“We have a great group of girls who help lead our team and help out our less experienced skiers,” added Leighton.

The Eagles finished fourth in the girls team results, aided by a top five finish from senior Karli Leighton.

It was also the first meet of the season for Maranacook, who are looking to improve upon a successful season last year.

“For me, it felt amazing to be out there, and I really improved my time compared to last season,” said Max Olmstead of Maranacook, who finished second overall individually. “We were just out there having fun and doing what we love, something that I think we all needed.

With the lack of the snow, skiers and their coaches have gotten creative in figuring out different ways to train while still adhering to guidelines surrounding the pandemic. Maranacook has been fortunate enough to ski at their own school, with a little help from mother nature and their coach, Steve Dencentes.

“Coach D. has done a fantastic job in making sure we have a place to get out and ski on,” said Wyatt Stevenson. “We’ve been conditioning when we aren’t able to get on the trails, so it’s a nice change of pace from one thing to the other.”

Regardless of how it had to be done, many skiers had been working towards this day for a long time and were happy to just be able to compete on the trails.

“I really liked the idea of it going in, but to actually experience skiing under the lights was a different feeling,” added Olmstead.

While it may have been a different setting this season, that feeling of racing under the lights is still a source of some extra motivation for the skiers.

“For my first career race to be under the lights was a special feeling,” added Libby. “I hope we can have a few more of these by the time the season is over.”

Overall, Maranacook secured a victory on the boys side, followed by Mt. Blue and Spruce Mountain. For the girls, Mt. Blue, Maranacook, and Camden Hills placed in the top three.

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