Most athletes complain about hitting the wall, but that’s exactly what Elise Luce was trying to do.
Throughout the first half of the season, Luce worked on what called the wall drill. An Alpine skier at Mt. Abram High School, Luce used the wall drill to improve her line through gates as she raced. If you’re right where you should be, you’re skiing on the wall.
“In the beginning (of the season), I normally start out slowly. It’s never really good the first couple weeks of January. This year it took longer,” Luce said. “I would have a couple gates where I would ski it, then a few where I wouldn’t. I got to the point where I could notice the difference.”
By the end of the season conference and state meets, Luce was peaking, and her work was rewarded with Class B state titles in the giant slalom and slalom. It was the third straight state championship in the GS for Luce, a junior, and her second consecutive slalom title. For her double championship season, Elise Luce has been named the Morning Sentinel Girls Alpine Skier of the Year.
Bob Luce, her father and the Alpine ski coach at Mt. Abram, said the giant slalom is Elise’s better event.
“You wouldn’t know it if you looked at her times at the state meet. She was being cautious. The boys went first. She was just watching. She saw where the boys were struggling,” Coach Luce said.
When it was time for the girls to take the GS course, they raced as wind whipped snow across the course and shook the gates. Still, Luce skied a two-run time of 1 minute, 34.51 seconds to retain her title.
Luce followed her GS victory with arguably the most impressive effort by a high school skier in the state this past season. Luce’s winning time in the slalom, 1:22.36, was five seconds better than runner-up Lydia Morin of Camden Hills.
At the Eastern Championships at Cannon Mountain, N.H. earlier this month, Luce finished eighth in the slalom, the highest finish for a Maine girl.
While Luce often appears calm and cool, particularly when she’s about to start a race, that exterior hides a highly competitive streak, her father said.
“A lot of people wouldn’t know how competitive she is. It doesn’t always show,” Coach Luce said. “When it’s time to get into the starting gate, she can focus and get after it.”
Some of that comes from skiing with and against her three older sisters, Erica, Emily and Erin, each a former successful skier for the Roadrunners (Emily won the two state GS titles previous to Elise’s current three-year run). With each of her sisters graduated, the sibling rivalry on the slopes was gone.
“She doesn’t have to deal with that,” Coach Luce said.
Even without her sisters pushing here, Luce can benefit from what her father called “the grumpies.” If something makes Luce a little angry, a bad first run, for example, she tends to use that as motivation.
“Sometimes when I’m mad about my first run, I can have a better second run. When I get in the gate, I try to be calm,” Luce said.
That’s what happened her freshman season, in the state championship slalom competition. After falling on her first run and clocking a time of 46.6 seconds, Luce’s second run was the fastest run of the day, 39.2 seconds, and she rallied to take third place.
“I was like, ‘Well, I have nothing to lose,’ ” Luce said.
Next season, Luce hopes to repeat both her state titles, and start the season with a stronger January. The wall is built, now it’s a matter of staying atop it.
“It would be nice to win both for a third year in a row,” Luce said.