Warm weather and winter weather in general has once again made life tough for area ski teams.
A slalom race featuring Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Mountain Valley Conference teams scheduled for Tuesday at Titcomb Mountain was canceled because host Mt. Blue did not have school and after school activities were canceled because of freezing rain. The mix of rain and warm weather hasn’t helped the situtaton.
“Peculiar winter has become normal for us,” Maranacook Alpine coach Ronn Gifford said. “I hope that’s not the long-term trend.”
While teams are used to Maine weather getting out of hand one way or the other, the cancellation of races comes at a tough time, since the KVAC and MVC championships begin Wednesday at Black Mountain. While teams will have the ability to practice before the conference championships and the eventual state meet, they lost out on the chance for competition.
“Skiers — both Alpine and Nordic — if you’re not flexible, this sport isn’t for you,” Gifford said. “We’re kind of used to this, though it’s sad to say that. We’re ready at any moment to shift the schedule and change our practice routine, jump in another race if we can fit one in somewhere. We deal with it as best we can and try to stay on some kind of a schedule.”
Mt. Abram Alpine coach Bob Luce believes his team gets more out of practice in gearing up for the conference championships and states than from races.
“My feeling is, more training is beneficial than a race is,” Luce said. “A race is two runs where training is multiple runs and having the ability to work different things on a course. In a race, you’re not really working on things, you’re trying to go out and win or do better.”
Luce said looking at the schedule at the start of the season, he knows that one or more races will be canceled. But the goal, in the end, Luce said, is to be ready for the state meet.
“Even though conference championships are coming up, I’d rather have more training days than race days,” Luce said. “But race days show where you stack up among the other schools and individually for some of the kids.”
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The Monmouth Academy Nordic team has seen individual success and improvement with each race this season. The team has even surpassed head coach Chris Bryant’s original expectations.
“Some of the other skiers are doing a great job picking it up,” Bryant said. “It’s tough when you don’t get to ski in December at all, it’s a short preseason. You jump right into racing and they’ve done a great job.”
The Mustangs, a young team both in boys and girls skiing, have had standout performances by Dylan Thombs (last year’s Kennebec Journal Nordic Skier of the Year) and Becki Bryant. Thombs placed seventh at last weekend’s Sassi Memorial race. Bryant placed second among sophomores at the Maranacook Waves race recently and qualified to race for the Maine squad at the J2 New England championships with her performance at Sassi, placing ninth among J2 skiers (14-15 year old range). Bryant is also a MVC skimeister, competing in Alpine events on top of Nordic races.
Chris Bryant said the pair have taken on a leadership role within the team.
“They’ve done a great job of working with the new skiers,” Bryant said. “It’s hard to work with that many new skiers, and you find that the kids can help teach each other than (coaches) can sometimes. They’ve set a good example in their training, but they’re also very helpful in teaching skills and really help to bring the team together.”
Chris Bryant has also been impressed with the performances of Jordyn Mann and Shannon Buzzell on the girls team.
While the season is quickly coming to an end, Chris Bryant is looking for his team to continue their improvement as time winds down.
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Area Nordic skiers had success in last weekend’s Sassi Memorial. In girls race, Caroline Colan had the best performance of the day, finishing seventh, while Mt. Blue’s Sarah Wade finished 11th. Emma Houston of Mt. Abram finished 16th.
For the boys, Thombs had the best day, finishing seventh, followed by Thomas Farraday of Mt. Abram in 17th and Zach Veayo of Mt. Blue in 18th. Ethan Harriman of Maranacook finished 24th.
In team scores, the Maranacook boys had the best day of any area team, finishing third behind team champ Gould Academy and Leavitt.
The Black Bears also had success in girls competition, placing sixth, the highest of the area teams. Merriconeag finished first, followed by Yarmouth and Portland.
Dave Dyer — 621-5639