NEW GLOUCESTER — The scene at Pineland Farms on Valentine’s Day was something to behold. Teenagers on Nordic skis wore pajamas, silly hats, a red sequined pantsuit. Emerging from the woods on the Oak Hill loop, Dipsy and Tinky Winky skied side by side.

“Isn’t this great!” Bob Morse said as he surveyed the Western Maine Conference’s annual Costume Race, where skiers mix and mingle, and nobody gets timed.

Morse, who ventured onto Maine’s high school skiing stage as a skimeister for Deering High in the early 1960s and remained a fixture for much of the ensuing decades, is finally gliding into retirement. He stepped away from teaching last spring at Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth after a half-century in education but agreed to continue as Yarmouth High’s Nordic coach for a 37th consecutive season, his 48th overall in coaching.

“We wanted to give ourselves some time to find somebody,” said Athletic Director Susan Robbins. “The kids just adore him. We have parents who have skied for Bob who have kids on the team now. We’re talking generations.”

Until 2016, the Maine Principals’ Association awarded skiing state titles to the team with the lowest combined score in Alpine and Nordic events. Under Morse, Yarmouth’s girls won 18 such titles to go with 14 for boys. The Clippers also won the 2016 Class B Nordic title for girls and next week will have a chance for another in Fort Kent.

“He’s really good with skiers, both beginners and people who take it more seriously,” said Yarmouth senior Sophia Laukli, who recently qualified for next month’s junior nationals in Soldier’s Hollow, Utah.

Morse, who turns 75 in September, gave up his head coaching duties in cross country last fall and in outdoor track a few years earlier. He taught math and science, and a bit of social studies in Yarmouth, mostly in sixth grade but also a few years at seventh and eighth.

“I have not seen many people in my life who are able to connect with so many people as Bob,” said Mike Hagerty, the Yarmouth boys’ soccer coach and a colleague who teaches seventh grade at Harrison. “Kids, especially, can see through when you’re not being genuine. And kids adore him. They adore him and respect him.”

Rich Smith, a fifth-grade teacher who coaches girls’ soccer at Yarmouth High, said Morse has the energy of an 18-year-old.

“I coached and taught alongside Bob for over 30 years,” Smith said. “His energy, sense of humor and passion are contagious. When you are around Coach Morse, he makes you feel like you can conquer the world and always with a smile.”

To Morse, that smile is just as important, if not more so, than the conquer part. One of his favorite recollections is not about trophies or titles but that time at a Christmas training camp at Black Mountain when he dropped a hint about a BCA (Bobcat Alert) during a lunch break and told his team not to worry unless they saw blue-tinged scat on the trails. He later planted some blueberry chocolates he received from L.L. Bean and feigned surprise when one of his girls screamed, “Morse! Morse! They’re here, those Bobcat things!”

Morse skied over, examined the small brown-and-blue blob and brought it to his nose. When he put it in his mouth, Julianna Lord, a senior who went on to win the skimeister title, yelled, “What are you doing?”

At that point the kids who had been in on the joke could no longer contain their laughter.

“We train hard and ski hard,” Morse said. “But when the dust settles, the memories we have are not always successes and failures.”

Laukli is the latest Morse skier to advance to national competition. Scott Loomis and Walt Shepard came closest, in cross-country and biathlon, respectively, to qualify for Olympic competition.

Yarmouth was the first Nordic team in Maine to employ the skating technique at a state championship meet and Morse has managed to keep pace with waxing’s evolution.

“He knows his skiing really well,” said Ted Hall, the former Yarmouth High principal who was on the MPA ski committee and had two sons under Morse’s tutelage. “He’s like a Zen master in the way that he can get kids to be skiing their best races at states. And he pays attention to all the kids. He gets the big picture.”

Hagerty, the boys’ soccer coach and teaching colleague, is a fellow Deering High grad whose children also had Morse as a teacher. Snowy trails, for Morse, simply became an extension of his classroom.

“One of the things I love about Bob is he understands where athletics fall as part of your education,” Hagerty said. “They’re not more important than, but they are a large part of it. The lessons he’s able to teach through skiing or cross country are so vital. Some of the things we learned in sports stuck with us longer than anything we learned in the classroom.”

Hagerty said that as a young coach, he might have been a bit brash, thought he knew it all. Morse always reminded him of the importance of making it fun, that kids don’t care about your resume.

“Win or lose,” Hagerty said, “you want to make sure these kids look back on their athletic careers with enjoyment.”

At Yarmouth, thanks to the man with the distinctive white mustache, there has been plenty of winning but even more enjoyment.

Thirteen years have passed since Morse was inducted into the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Only now, with four children and five grandchildren, is he ready to put down his poles. He expressed gratitude to his colleagues and to the ever-supportive Yarmouth Ski Club as well as to all the parents who entrusted their children to him. He jokes that his wife has a to-do list of projects over the past 50 years that never got done.

“It’s hard to let go,” Morse said, “but it’s also time to move on.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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