Ski teams will be up bright and early today to hit the Black Mountain slopes for the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Mountain Valley Conference championships.
Two teams in particular — Maranacook and Mt. Blue — seek a big week. The Black Bears and Cougars are once again among the top teams in the conference, both in Alpine and Nordic.
In Alpine, it could be a tight race between the rivals. The Black Bears have had success with Alec Daigle, Kelby Mace, Matt Delmar and Toby Smith. Mace, Delmar and Smith finished first, second and sixth, respectively, at the Maranacook Skimeister Slalom at Kents Hill on Jan. 19.
The Cougar boys were able to hold their own in that race, however, as Kyle Farrington and Max Kay finished in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Delmar, Daigle and Mace were near the top of the Leavitt Invitational at Black Mountain on Jan. 21. Delmar had a third-place finish, with Daigle placing fifth and Mace seventh. For their effort, the Black Bears left victorious with an overall team score of 321 points. Edward Little finished a distant second with 296 points. Mt. Blue finished sixth with 272 points.
Maranacook Alpine coach Ronn Gifford knows his team has a shot.
“The boys are pretty strong as long as they focus on the task at hand,” Gifford said. “I’ve got the luxury of having a number of top guys with Alec Daigle, Matt Delmar, Kelby Mace and Toby Smith. They’re all going to be there fighting right at the top.”
Mt. Blue Alpine coach Mark Cyr knows the Black Bears will be tough to topple.
“The biggest competition for the boys is Maranacook,” Cyr said. “Kyle Farrington has been skiing really well this year. Then it gets rounded out with Felix Bonnevie and Max Kay. My fourth skier is usually Anthony Franchetti. We’ve been right there with Maranacook. Early in the season we traded races back and forth.”
The Cougars may have the edge in girls Alpine. Mallory Parker has led Mt. Blue this season, finishing third at the Leavitt Invitational and fourth at the Maranacook Skimeister slalom. Teammate Katerina Bessey has also put forth a solid effort this season, finishing third at Maranacook. It’s been a strong effort considering the low number the Cougars have this season.
“We only have four girls skiing this year,” Cyr said. “If I lose one, we’re out of it. I need all four to stand and do well. I’ve got two girls that can probably finish in the top 10 (today).”
Cyr said he also expects a good showing from Oxford Hills and Edward Little.
Erin Guilmet, a freshman, has been the top female Alpine skier for the Black Bears, finishing sixth at Maranacook and 16th at Leavitt.
“I’m hoping the girls will surprise a little bit as we get further down and we get to the state meet level,” Gifford said.
The Black Bears may also have an edge on Mt. Blue in both boys and girls Nordic skiing. Maranacook had a strong start at the Hornet classic, finishing first in both boys and girls. At the Maranacook Waves race, the boys team finished eighth (Mt. Blue finished second), while the girls team finished fourth (Mt. Blue was fifth). At the Sassi Memorial Classical, Maranacook finished in third place for boys, sixth in girls, while Mt. Blue was sixth in boys and ninth in girls.
Both of the girls teams are led by a strong skier. Maranacook has Caroline Colan, who finished seventh at Sassi. The Cougars are led by Sarah Wade, who placed first in the Hornet Classic, third at Maranacook Waves and 11th at Sassi.
In the MVC, Monmouth is in line for a strong showing. The Mustangs are young — they are also in only their second season as a Nordic team — but have had solid individual performances. Dylan Thombs led the boys team this season, placing seventh at Sassi, while Becki Bryant finished ninth in the J2 (14-15 year olds) race at Sassi.
The championships are split in two days of racing. Today, teams will participate in the Alpine giant slalom and Nordic freestyle races. Teams will get back together on Black Mountain on Saturday for the final two races, the Alpine slalom and Nordic classical.
Dave Dyer — 621-5639