Nordic teams from around the state will head to Rumford on Saturday for the Sassi Memorial 5K Classical at Black Mountain Ski Resort.
The Sassi is the closest teams will get to a state championship until the event itself next month, so coaches use the event as a measuring stick for how well their teams are performing.
“It’s your best measuring stick,” Maranacook head coach Steve DeAngelis said. “It comes after you’ve had enough practice to know where teams are going to be, along with yourself, and it’s still before state meets so you can make adjustments.”
It may be a bit more difficult for teams to measure themselves this season, however. A flu epidemic has hit not only Maine, but the country. That, along with the recent exam week for some schools, have taken a toll on skiers.
“We’re still dealing with a little bit of illness,” Mt. Blue Nordic coach David Nordstrom said. “Some people are a little off from where they’d like to be. We’re probably going to be picking up speed in the next couple of weeks, because this is where we start sharpening toward the state meets and KVACs.”
DeAngelis said that while his team isn’t at full strength, it’s a problem all teams are facing.
“In general, I think most schools are experiencing quite a run of sickness in their student populations in general,” DeAngelis said. “It’s hard to really crank it up when you’re out in the cold like that and under the weather.”
Thankfully for both teams, skiers are coming back to full strength at the right time, most of the skiers on both teams will be ready to go on Saturday.
The Sassi is also where the Maine Junior II team is selected, based on the results of the race. Two area skiers qualified for the JII team last year: Rachel Ingram of Winthrop, as well as former Mt. Abram skier Sadie James, who transferred to Gould Academy.
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Area teams enjoyed success last weekend at both the Maranacook Waves race at Sugarloaf Outdoor Center and the Maranacook Skimeister Slalom at Kents Hill.
The Huskies finished with the best score for the girl teams, as Abi Bowie finished first with a time of 1:00.33. Teammate Amy De Hass finished seventh at 1:03.76 and Joan Hancock finished 14th at 1:06.21.
Huskies head coach Steve Bell said before the race that he’s been happy with his team’s overall production so far this season.
“We’re doing alright, we’re kind of young,” Bell said. “The girls team is very deep.”
Mt. Blue finished in second place while Maranacook finished fourth. Individually, Katerina Bessey of Mt. Blue finished third with a time of 1:02.41 and teammate Mallory Parker finished fourth at 1:02.95.
Maranacook finished first in boys slalom, with the one-two combination of Kelby Mace, who finished with a time of 54.64 and Matt Delmar, who finished at 54.67. Fellow Black Bear skier Toby Smith finished sixth at 56.34. Mt. Blue finished third, led by Kyle Farrington, who finished fourth at 56.07. Teammate Max Kay finished fifth with a time of 56.15.
Kents Hill ended the event with a fourth place finish.
Gould Academy took both the boys and girls title at Maranacook Waves. Mt. Blue was the top local team, finishing second in boys and fifth in girls.
Maranacook followed with an eighth place finish in boys and a fourth place finish in girls.
“We’re not skating quite as good in classical as freestyle, but I thought we did pretty well,” DeAngelis said. “Overall, that was a pretty solid performance for us.”
The Winthrop girls had a good performance as well with an eighth place finish.
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Mt. Blue Nordic skier Sarah Wade continues to impress this season. Wade, a junior, finished third overall at Maranacook Waves, trailing Sadie James of Gould Academy and Abby Popenoe of Portland. Her performance comes a week after she finished first at the Leavitt Invitational.
Her first place finish was in a classical race, and her stronger races come in freestyle, meaning there is still room for improvement before the conference and state championships.
Nordstrom joked that he has a difficult time keeping up with Wade.
“She gets a lot of pop out of every stride, and I actually had to think about it to keep up.”
Dave Dyer — 621-5639