READFIELD — The weather was unusual. The format was unique.

The winners, however, were no one new.

Facing slushy snow and high temperatures and prevailing nonetheless, the Mt. Blue and Maranacook Nordic teams skied their ways to first-place finishes at the Maranacook Wave race Saturday morning. The teams claimed the same victories they did at the previous weekend’s Hornet Classic, with Mt. Blue (34 points) taking the boys race ahead of Maranacook (41), Oxford Hills (52), Central Maine Ski Club (103) and Leavitt (122), while Maranacook (32) finished first in the girls race just ahead of the Cougars (34) and in front of Gould Academy (51), CMSC (86) and Maine Coast (104).

Similar as the results may look, this was hardly a carbon copy of the Hornet race. The colder, icier, faster conditions at Leavitt Area High School gave way to a course at Maranacook that was slower, stickier and softer, and with the sun beating down and temperatures hovering near 40 degrees, the scene was an odd one as skiers pushed their way through the course with short sleeves.

“It was a tough day, just because of the conditions,” said Maranacook’s Abby Despres, who finished fifth in the girls race at 17:13. “No one’s used to sweating during a ski meet, right? We’re out there and it’s just kind of mushy, but overall, I think it was pretty OK. Just remembering to keep a high turnover.”

Skiers noted a “suction” to parts of the course, as skis that glide through dry snow tend to drag in the wetter snow of warmer weather.

“The conditions are kind of interesting, because it’s this warm in January,” said Mt. Blue’s Julia Ramsey, who was third at 16:44. “But everyone’s in the same conditions. I just had to be a little bit more powerful than everyone else, and that seemed to work for me.”

There was also the wrinkle of the race’s wave format. Skiers went out in groups arranged by class and skill level, allowing them to ski alongside their closest competitors in a break from the normal one-at-a-time individual starts that let the skiers tackle the course alone.

The format gives skiers an in-race rival, and allows them to compete directly versus just trying to post the best time they can.

“It’s a really great chance for skiers to ski up,” Mt. Blue coach Claire Polfus said. “If you start with someone that’s been ahead of you in results, it teaches the athletes that they can go faster. That’s the great thing about wave starts and mass starts. We have a really deep team, and so often our fifth, sixth boys and girls are starting with people who aren’t skiing with them, so they don’t have that direct competition as much as in this format.

“I enjoy it a lot more. Some of the kids think it’s more stressful.”

Maranacook coach Steve DeAngelis said competing alongside a skier — particularly a superior one — gives the other a better idea of how to make up those valuable seconds.

“I learn a little bit about my team, but more importantly, they learn about themselves,” he said. “Every time you do a race like this, if you can race with someone who’s just a little bit faster than you and find ‘Oh, I can hang with them,’ the trick is to learn ‘What did I do to be able to hang with them that lets me ski faster so I don’t have them with me?’ ”

That was a question the Mt. Blue boys didn’t have to ask itself often with the rest of the field chasing them. The defending Class A champions landed three skiers in the top 11, with Tucker Barber (fourth, 13:34) leading a group also consisting of Isaiah Reid (ninth, 14:16), Nolan Rogers (11th) and Sam Stinson, who placed 14th overall and was the race’s top finisher in the sophomore group.

“In a wave start, you get to see exactly who you’re against,” said Barber, who was in a group with race winner Tucker Pierce of Maine Coast (12:59) and third-place finisher Caleb Niles of Deering (13:20). “My goal was just to hang with the front people. Tucker and Caleb really took it out, so I was just trying to stick with them.”

Finishing right behind Barber in fifth was Maranacook’s Zach Holman (13:47), who led a Black Bears contingent of Mark McLaughlin (sixth, 13:48), Carter McPhedran (17th) and Ruslan Reiter (19th).

“I felt good physically. Mentally, I just couldn’t get in the zone today,” said Holman, who returned after missing last weekend’s race. “Everything’s really practice up until states, so … it’s a learning opportunity to get out there, get better, learn a little bit from it, bounce back next week and do even better.”

Maranacook fell just shy of first place, but as was the case at Leavitt, the Black Bears made up for it in the girls race. Winning becomes easier with two skiers in the top five, which Maranacook had with Laura Parent (17:10) edging teammate Despres for fourth in a race won by Gould’s Stephanie Nicols (15:30). Maddie and Maura Taylor finished 14th and 15th, respectively, for the Black Bears, and Maura’s victory in the later freshman group allowed Maranacook to leapfrog Mt. Blue just before the event’s conclusion.

“It kind of changes your technique a little bit. When the snow’s stickier you go later and faster, quicker turnover, which is something I’m working on anyway,” Parent said, referring to the rapid poling motion used to get through slower snow. “It didn’t change it too much. I’m used to adjusting to conditions anyway.”

Meg Charles (seventh, 17:38) finished behind Ramsey for Mt. Blue, followed by Gretchen Huish (13th) and Grace Andrews (17th). Monmouth (150) finished ninth in the girls race, getting its top finish from Caroline Balano-Stott (35th).

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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