Luca DeAngelis believes that, if anything, he over-trained for his junior Nordic skiing season. He still finished second in the classical and fifth in the freestyle race at the 2015 Class B state championships, but it felt like a grind.

A conversation with older brother Tyler reminded him that working hard was important to becoming the best skier he could, but it wasn’t why he skied.

“I think the difference this year was having fun and relaxing,” DeAngelis said. “I just stayed healthier and more relaxed.”

A healthier and more relaxed DeAngelis was sufficient to make his competition tense. The Maranacook senior dominated this season, winning all but one race he entered, including the prestigious Sassi Memorial and the Class B classical and freestyle state championships.

For his accomplishments, DeAngelis is the 2016 Kennebec Journal Boys Nordic Skier of the Year.

Steve DeAngelis, Luca’s father and coach at Maranacook, said Luca probably put too much pressure on himself as a junior. Skiing more free and easy this year and listening to his body while still maintaining a strong work ethic, brought his outstanding technical skills to the forefront.

“He’s always been a very good technical skier, but he was just so confident and so smooth,” Steve said. “The other big difference was strength.”

“The big thing about any endurance sport is you get good during the offseason,” he added. “There’s a lot of hard work when nobody is watching and he was really eager to put in that work.”

Putting in the work required DeAngelis to take a different approach than many Nordic skiers because he suffers from Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, a condition that occurs frequently in teenage athletes and causes severe pain in the front of the knee. One way he manages it is to limit his running, normally a staple of Nordic conditioning. As a substitute, he often roller skates while his teammates are running.

Lack of cooperation from Mother Nature extended the running and roller blading season for local Nordic skiers, so DeAngelis went into the season with tempered expectations. But he started out strong, winning the Leavitt Hornet Classic — which was moved to Waterville’s Quarry Road Trails due to lack of snow — and the Maranacook Wave Race. With the Oxford Hills Sprints being the lone exception, he was never beaten.

“Early in the season, I kept kind of surprising myself and just kept getting better,” he said.

He won the Sassi Memorial, the largest Nordic race in the state at Black Mountain in Rumford, by 13 seconds. A week-and-a-half later, he captured the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference freestyle championship by 11 seconds at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington and won the conference classical title the next day by just under four seconds at Black Mountain.

“The conference races were rough,” Luca DeAngelis said. “I didn’t feel very good for those. But I had a little bit of a break before states and I just kind of regrouped.”

DeAngelis recovered to easily win the Class B classical and freestyle titles on consecutive days at Titcomb Mountain. He took the classical by 31.5 seconds. His time of 13:19.5 also would have won the Class A race, which was run in conjunction with the Class B race. The next day, he again posted the best freestyle time in either class, 11:49.0, and won the Class B title by 11 seconds.

On March 5, he qualified for the Eastern High School Championships by winning the freestyle and finishing second in the classical at Black Mountain. Out of 107 skiers from New England and New York, he finished 27th overall at the regional races in Rikert, Vermont.

It was an ending that reinforced to DeAngelis that he’d found the right balance between going through the grind and having fun.

“I didn’t really picture myself having this great a season,” said DeAngelis, who is weighing continuing his education and skiing career at schools such as Harvard, Bates, Bowdoin and Middlebury. “It feels like a lot of hard work paying off.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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