Karli Leighton of Mt. Ararat begins her race during the KVAC championships earlier this month in Farmington. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

Despite the drastically altered landscape of high school sports this winter,  Nordic ski races were still held and conference champions were still crowned.

But in the pandemic, it was far from a typical ski season.

“Considering the circumstances and what we were looking at back in November and December, the season was a huge success,” said Mt. Ararat head coach Kevin Leighton. “Our season was in doubt a few months ago, so to have a top-three finish on the girls side was a fantastic way to close it out.”

Midcoast area teams also had to contend with an atypical winter, with low snowfall impacting the race calendar.

“It actually became a bigger issue than we could’ve imagined going in,” said Leighton. “With the limited snow time it became a big challenge for our inexperienced skiers to learn those valuable skills they can utilize during a race.”

Once a week, the Eagles would travel to the Quarry Road Trails in Waterville for a practice session on the snow.

Brunswick conducted virtual practices and the teams skied on local golf courses to help newcomers get comfortable during the first couple months of the season. The Dragons also were able to practice a handful of times at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.

“It was a quick 180 for us when we found out we’d be having some sort of season back in December,” said Brunswick head coach Jessica Marion. “The way we started was less than ideal, but having some time on the course really helped us and was a way for us to be together as a team.”

Both the Dragons and Eagles also took to roller skiing during practice when there was no snow.

Cal Wilby of Brunswick tries to get momentum up a hill during the KVAC classic Nordic championship race earlier this month at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

“We went from virtual practice, to skiing on the snow, to roller skiing back in the parking lot,” Marion said. “It was no doubt a challenge but the kids just took each opportunity and ran with it, which is what made our season successful.”

The Mt. Ararat Nordic teams entered the season with a few veterans and a handful of newcomers.

“We had four girls to make up a genuine team who had a goal in mind at the conference championship,” said Leighton. “The boys were just looking for a challenge and to gain experience while having some fun.”

The Mt. Ararat girls Nordic team placed third at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships, thanks to a fifth-place finish from Sadie Skinner (18:30.3) at the conference meet. The Eagles also had three skiers place in the top 16 at the KVAC freestyle race.  Mt. Blue and Maranacook finished first and second, respectively.

The Brunswick boys placed fourth overall at the KVAC race, behind two top 10 finishes from Cal Wilby (seventh in 16:31.9) and Felix Battle (10th in 16:50.2) in the freestyle races.

Although the opportunities were limited as a whole this season, the Dragons and Eagles had three league races along with the two days of the KVAC championship races.

“While you could call this year an experience, I don’t think I want to go through a season like this one again,” Marion said.

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