An exceptional sophomore class has lifted the Maranacook boys Alpine team into serious contention for a conference title when league championships are up for grabs in early February.

“We have been skiing together forever,” said Alec Daigle, who turned in several outstanding runs last year as a freshman. “We all started on the Kents Hill slope together way back when we were little.”

Sophomores Daigle, Matt Delmar, Toby Smith, Alex Tooth, Tyler Lang and Kelby Mace are capable of producing high finishes that can keep Maranacook on the podium this season during tournament time.

“We have a lot of depth, so it allows us to test how fast we can go during the season,” Daigle said. “We have enough guys who can all finish in the top half of the field, giving us a chance to finish in the top three at the KVAC.”

Daigle and several of his teammates enjoy testing the limits of their abilities during the regular season. When Daigle completes two runs, he is always close to contesting for the top spot, but recently his speed has overtaken his technique leaving him sliding through the snow, on his back, after taking a fall.

“All these races are just practice,” he said. “It really counts when we get into the conference and state meets and that’s when we need to stand up.”

• • •

Dates for the upcoming combined Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Mountain Valley Conference championships were confirmed last week. Coaches have opted for a Feb. 8 date at Black Mountain in Rumford and a Feb. 11 race day at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington.

“Having the races on Feb. 8 gives us two days of recovery time, which is much better for the skiers,” Mt. Blue Alpine coach Mark Cyr said. “The kids need the two days. If you went on Thursday that would leave one day and that is not enough.”

The two conferences are combining their ski championships with three sets of awards. Winners will be recognized for an overall title, an MVC championship and a KVAC championship.

• • •

Mt. Abram junior Sadie James has worked extremely hard to become the best Nordic skier she can be. James opted not to play soccer in the fall so she could concentrate on her conditioning for the winter season.

All that effort paid off in a big way Saturday at Black Mountain when James won the Sassi Memorial Classic Nordic race. James was first in a record field of 226 girls, representing 34 high school teams from Maine, on the 5K classical course.

“I have been feeling good and very happy with my results,” James said.”I am really looking forward to states where I really want to peak this season.”

James has spent more time on her classical technique than anything, working on her arm positioning and body control. Saturday she finished 37 seconds ahead of Gould Academy skier Molly Siegel, who was second.

“I have really worked hard on my classical,” she said. “I am learning new things about skiing everyday and it is helping so much.”

• • •

The Sassi Memorial Classic is also used as a selection race for the Maine J2 (ages 14 and 15) team. J2 skiers will compete in the New England competition races representing the state in March.

Area girls earning a spot on the Maine team were: Sarah Wade, Mt. Blue; Emma Houston, Mt. Abram; Rachel Ingram, Winthrop and Natalie Wicks, Maranacook. Serving as alternate is Leah Hardy of Mt. Blue.

Area boys earning a spot on the Maine team were: Thomas Farraday, Mt. Abram. Alternates: Silas Rogers, Mt. Blue; Ethan Harriman, Maranacook.

• • •

Monmouth Academy has managed successful results in its first season as a full varsity program. Coach Chris Bryant has his sights on building a program that will be around for a long time and not just something that will flourish for now, then die out quickly.

“Our biggest goal this year is building a sustainable Monmouth Nordic ski program. Last year, we had three boys skiing as cooperative individuals training with Winthrop,” he said. “This year, we have our own Monmouth Academy Nordic ski team, with five boys and six girls on the roster.

“Our boys team is led by returning skiers Dylan Thombs (sophomore), Matt Bryant (senior) and Brian Nugent (senior). We also added Sherman Spears (freshman) and Ben Bailey (sophomore). The boys are hoping to improve upon their performances from last year and increase their team competitiveness in the MVC conference. I’m expecting strong performances by Dylan Thombs and Matt Bryant to lead the team.”

“Our girls team is a young team, led by Becki Bryant (freshman), Jordyn Mann (freshman) and Kim Lewis (freshman), who all have previous racing experience from middle school. We also added three new skiers: India Pickett (sophomore), Tiffany Pease (sophomore), and Rosie Bryant (sophomore). This is definitely a building year for the girls where they are looking to work on basic strength, conditioning, and technique, and gaining experience skiing and racing at a high school level. Bryant is also the sole Alpine skier for Monmouth Academy, where she will be looking to be competitive in the Skimeister competitions this year,” Coach Bryant said.