For Laura Parent, her junior year was a dream season — which, going into her senior year, became the problem.

The Maranacook standout won the classical race and was second in the skate race at the Class B championships, leading the Black Bears to the state championship last season. So when the time to follow up those accomplishments came, Parent noticed fewer of things she enjoyed about racing and more of the things she didn’t. Like pressure, expectations and her own high standards.

“Racing, mentally, was a little difficult this season,” she said. “Halfway through the season I had to take a step back and ask myself what I’m really racing for and evaluate what I’m doing and where I want to be. I got into a better mentality after that.”

With that improved mindset, Parent went back to being one of the state’s best Nordic skiers. The senior placed fourth in the classical and skate races at the Class B championships, leading Maranacook to a third-place finish. For her performance, Parent repeated as the Kennebec Journal Girls Nordic Skier of the Year.

“I think I had a pretty solid season,” Parent said. “I think (I felt) probably increased pressure from last season, but I was still able to push through and have a few solid races.”

“She’s incredibly strong. Just really, really strong in the upper body, and that really pays off,” coach Steve DeAngelis said. “Skiing in general’s becoming more and more and more of an upper-body sport, the pulling is emphasized more in classic and skating. The stronger you are, it matters.”

That strength made Parent so formidable last season, and though it was an asset this year as well, she acknowledged taking to this season with a diminished intensity. Part of it was the pressure applied both internally and externally from expectations that the Black Bears, and Parent specifically, were shoo-ins to repeat their past performance.

“It was almost a surprise to her … when she won the state championship in classic skiing last year,” DeAngelis said. “At the start of the year, she had really big expectations and felt … that other people had big expectations for her as well. That added a lot of pressure. She struggled a little bit early in the year skiing under the weight of those expectations.”

Parent said she struggled to feel comfortable early in the season.

“I didn’t feel as fast as I felt last year,” she said. “I think that’s where I was feeling down about my races. I wasn’t able to relax and really get into the racing mentality.”

Adding to that discomfort were new classical skis and boots that took Parent weeks to get used to.

“I didn’t really think that would have much of an effect on me, but it did,” she said. “After the first classical race I was like ‘It didn’t feel right, there was something so weird about it.’ … I think it was all mental too because when you have a good mental race, none of that matters. You’re just in the zone, you’re not thinking of your new equipment or thinking about how well you did last year. It’s just a matter of being in the race.”

Eventually, Parent decided she’d had enough. She went back to basics, forgetting about trying to reach certain standards and focusing instead on doing her best in the sport she loved.

“I kind of just simplified it for myself,” she said. “I was just like ‘I’m competing, I’m doing something I love, and I love racing.’ I didn’t like feeling that I wasn’t doing well enough in my races, so I was just working on giving it my best shot and enjoying being out there with my team.”

By the time the year-end races came about, Parent’s mindset had healed. She finished second in the KVAC classical and skate races, even though she beat last year’s winning classical time by more than four minutes. She trimmed 31 seconds off her skate time and cut 85 seconds off her classical time in the state championships, despite finishing lower in both.

“People who don’t understand it say ‘Well, she won last year, she didn’t win this year, did she get worse?’ No,” DeAngelis said. “I think Laura skied as well as she did last year, but other people that she skied against were top competition.”

It was when those races were finishing that DeAngelis saw her progress.

“The story of her season, for me, is that when she crossed the finish line at the state meet in both her races she was smiling,” he said. “I was super pleased with the way she handled herself and the way she dealt with the pressures and worked her way through that.”

“I know that it was the end of my senior season, and my last couple of races for Maranacook. I just really wanted to give everything I had,” Parent said. “That’s what I wanted to do going in, that was my goal and I think I accomplished my goal, so I was really happy with those races.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.