Sam Smith competes for the Mt. Blue Alpine ski team. (Brewster Burns photo)

 

When it comes to darting down the slopes or serving as the team’s jester — who alleviates tension and the monotony of training with his comedic moments — timing is everything for Mt. Blue skier Sam Smith.

Smith, never one to dally, could technically be considered a four-sport athlete, who competes with the same zeal as an Alpine and Nordic skier as he does as a soccer and lacrosse player.

The Cougars head to the two-day Class A Alpine championships at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton on Thursday and Friday. Smith will also be on the snow for Mt. Blue to compete in the Nordic state championships at Starks Hill in Fryeburg on Monday and Tuesday.

But Smith’s humorous side has come to be appreciated by Mt. Blue Alpine coach Mark Cyr, who added that Smith also knows when to keep focused on the slopes.

“I would not call him a class clown, but he makes me laugh,” Cyr said. “He makes the other kids laugh. It lightens the mood and the tenseness sometimes before a race. He is a good kid to have on the team because when he is getting ready to ski a course, he is all work.

“He has a tremendous, tremendous work ethic when he is at practice, but there are times, and he does it at the right time, but he just cracks people up — a really funny kid. He knows when to do it and knows when to knuckle down and get back to business and so he does a good job with that.”

“Sam is funny and clearly enjoys being on snow,” Mt. Blue Nordic coach Claire Polfus said. “He is also competitive and serious about his athletics. It is a good combination.”

Smith is quite comfortable in his skin and is only too happy to fulfill his role as team comedienne and introduce some levity to keep the Cougars loose.

“Yes, you could say that,” Smith said. “I definitely don’t like to be overly serious. Personally, I like to lighten the mood and that is just how I am. I try to keep it mostly under control, but, yeah, I like to put a joke out there.”

It’s go time

Smith knows he is up against some fine skiers in this year’s state Alpine championships.

“Falmouth definitely has a lot of great skiers,” Smith said. “So we are going to have to ski really well if we are going to do well against them. I am definitely looking forward to it and I think our team will show up and do its best.

“I mean if I can stand up and not fall on runs, I will be in a pretty good situation. I am just looking forward to this upcoming week of skiing.”

Cyr’s confidence in Smith is high and he believes the Babson College-bound senior has good shot to make the top five. 

“I think he is going to be in the mix,” Cyr said. “I think obviously he is going to score for the team. He had a little bit of a tragedy where he hooked the gate at the finish at the KVACs, but he is going to learn from that. He just can’t relax at the finish, whether it is GS or slalom. 

“He has to work his way all the way to the finish line, and I think he will do well. As far as our team is concerned, he will be in the top two or three, one or two. He is going to racing against some really good tough skiers that we have seen through the year. There is a real strong kid from Oxford Hills — Colby VanDecker.  So Sam has his work cut out for him, but I think he can pop a top five.”

Smith also wants another crack at the NENSA Eastern High School Championships, which features top prep and high-school skiers from New England and New York. It will be held in the middle of March at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center.

“Last year, I had a rough time at the qualifier,” Smith said. “I fell, just didn’t have a good day that day. This year, I am just hoping to put together a good day.”

“That’s his goal to make that team, and part of is, you have to come in top-15 at state championships in order to go to the qualifier to tryout for that team,” Cyr said. “I think that is one of his goals is to make that team. He had a tough break last year.”

Torn between two disciplines

Smith gets right to the point when he says he enjoys competing in Alpine and Nordic, which offers him different and rewarding challenges.

“Probably Alpine is more fun, but Nordic is more fulfilling,” Smith said. “When you finish a Nordic race, you feel like you accomplished (a lot more), you put more effort into it. … I don’t know, it is hard to explain, but Alpine is definitely more fun, but Nordic is definitely, you put a lot more into it physically.”

For years, Cyr was sold on the idea of skiers competing in both venues, but now he has had a change of heart.

“I know I am going to ruffle some feathers when I say this,” Cyr said. “For years, I bought into this. I said it is good to do Nordic and Alpine, but I am seeing that’s not necessarily the case. It is two different variables and your body does two different things in those two disciplines. 

“It is two different animals and I have kind of gone in an opposite direction that it is more detrimental to a kid who wants to focus on one or the other. I am not saying Alpine or Nordic, but if (a skier) wants to do really well in the other, if he tries to do both, it almost detrimental because, and I not speaking for the Nordic, but on the Alpine, it teaches them some bad habits like how to turn a ski.”

Polfus also weighed in on this ongoing debate.

“I think it is hard and getting harder to do both disciplines as each type of skiing specializes more and more,” Polfus said. “However, I think that the skills learned in each discipline help the other, and kids who do both are very good all-around skiers.”

It might be impossible for Smith to make a choice simply because he loves both disciplines.

But as far as Alpine skiing, Smith is at the top of his game and is equally impressive in giant slalom and slalom racing.

Cyr said that Smith is big and strong for GS and quick and agile for slalom.

“He has both attributes,” Cyr said. “He is equally good at both of them, which is somewhat rare.”

Sam is the man

Smith impressed Cyr as a freshman and continued to flourish as a skier for the Cougars.

“He is just about one of the most athletic skiers I have had,” Cyr said. “He is strong. He has amazing balance. He is quick — all of the things you look for in an athlete. He is smart. All of those things he has had as a freshman have just improved as a senior —  his speed, his quickness, his balance, his smartness.

“But sometimes he gets himself in those situations and he is not going to come out of it, but somehow he makes his body do certain things … and all of a sudden he is back to where he wants to be and on track … without even blinking.

“He is extremely coachable. He is a bright kid and he takes what you say and he applies it. When you talk to him, he not only hears it, he applies it to his training and racing. Even right from his freshman year, he was a scorer. We knew he was going to be talented. He integral part and strong part of the team since he was a freshman.”

“Sam is more confident, stronger and faster than when he was a freshman,” Polfus said. “His mental strength has also grown. He has learned to better deal with race nerves and pressure. This year he has come to every Nordic race ready to go with a positive race outlook and goals, even after big races in Alpine.”

Cyr added that Smith reminds him of another fine Mt. Blue skier — Jordan Stevens, who was also a standout in football for the University of Maine Black Bears and now an assistant football coach at Yale University.

“Jordan was probably the best skier I ever had,” Cyr said. “But he was also a talented football player. I think he made the right choice. He has made a career out of (football). He was a lot like Sam … very athletic, a very good athlete.”

The player-coach relationship between Smith and Cyr is a strong one that was forged on the slopes of Titcomb Mountain.

“He is just a great coach,” Smith said. “He’s a great guy. He is never overly serious, but he is serious when he needs to be serious. So he has just been a great coach and helped me stay focused.”

So what’s next

Smith, a top-10 student at Mt. Blue, loves soccer and was recruited to play that sport for the Babson Beavers in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He will major in a finance-related subject.

“I always liked math, and it seems like something I might like,” Smith said.

But he might have to put skiing on the back burner because of his commitment to a top-notch college like Babson.

“I am definitely going to miss it not being able to ski,” Smith said. “I think the biggest thing is when I got out of school and going over to Titcomb and just ski. Pretty fun to go just like that and pretty fun to just go from school and be able to ski.” 

“I hope he continues to ski,” Cyr said. “He is going to Babson College and he is not going to be doing some competitive skiing.” 

And of course, Cyr is proud of Smith for moving on to a promising future.

“I was standing on the side of the hill during the KVACs and a parent from another school skied over and Sam was talking to me,” Cyr said. “The parent came over and said, ‘I have enjoyed watching you since you were in the fifth grade. I am going to miss seeing you ski down a slalom. It has been fun for me and I hope it has been fun for you.’”

No kidding, Smith loved every minute of it.

Sam Smith competes for the Mt. Blue Nordic ski team. Smith also skis for the school’s Alpine team. (Jaime Lynn Photographry)

Mt. Blue’s Sam Smith rides the trail during the Hornet Classic Nordic race in Turner last month. (Jaime Lynn Photographry)

Mt. Blue’s Sam Smith flies down the hill at Black Mountain. (Brewster Burns photo)

filed under:

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.