Eli Yeaton was already having a good season. And then the Mt. Blue junior kicked it up a notch.

Yeaton dazzled in the biggest events for the Cougars this season. He notched a pair of runner-up finishes in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference slalom and giant slalom races, and then took second and third, respectively, in the slalom and giant slalom events at the Class A state championships.

Eli Yeaton is the Morning Sentinel Boys Alpine Skier of the Year. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

For his performance, Yeaton is the Morning Sentinel boys Alpine Skier of the Year. His teammate, Sam Smith, was also considered after a year that included a win, three second-place finishes and eight top-threes.

“He peaked just at the right time,” coach Mark Cyr said of Yeaton. “He had a good season all year … but then, when it came time for the championships, Eli stepped it up and really came through.”

Yeaton and Smith formed a daunting duo, one that led the Cougars to second place in Class A. Cyr said it was hard to miss the competitive streak that ran between the two skiers.

“It was there, you could sense it,” Cyr said. “Each time they came down, they were asking ‘What did Eli do?’ or ‘What did Sam do?’ During training runs, they wanted to know what the other guy got. … It was good-natured. I never saw any animosity at all.”

Smith had the stronger first half of the season, but toward the middle of the season, Yeaton began to catch up, due in part to a physical correction the junior made to make up for his smaller stature.

“I’ve never really been the biggest skier, so I had to make sure I skied better than most,” Yeaton said. “I’ve been working on getting my hips in the turn, trying to make that transition time as fast as possible, just because I knew the more I’m on edge, the faster I’ll be.

“I didn’t have the weight to bring me downhill, so I had to work to get going.”

More importantly, however, Yeaton knew he had to make a mental adjustment as well.

“In the middle of the season I wasn’t doing bad, but I was in kind of a rough headspace and getting mad after the races and putting myself down a little bit,” he said. “But then looking back on the year before, coming into the KVACs, that really helped. That brought be back in a (good) headspace and I was ready to go.”

Cyr said that improved confidence was a result of more maturity and wisdom on the slopes.

“When he came into the high school program, he kind of thought ‘Oh, I can just go for it, I can just go as fast as I can in every part of the race course on every race course,’ ” he said. “And as he’s getting older and more mature, he realizes there are times you can go for it and times you have to dial it back a little bit. I think he’s a much smarter skier than he was when he was a freshman.”

Yeaton is also passionate about his craft, which Cyr noticed after Mt. Blue set up chips on the skiers’ boots that could time them during the course of their practice runs.

“Eli just ate this up,” Cyr said. “At the beginning of practice regularly, Eli would start with a jacket and windpants on, trying to stay warm. But by the end of practice almost every time, he was stripping down to his speedsuit, just trying to go faster and faster.”

Yeaton translated that passion into runner-up finishes at the KVACs, and then faced the challenge of replicating that success on the biggest stage of the season at the Class A championships.

“Going into the meet, I was probably the most nervous I’d been all year, just because it was a big thing,” Yeaton said. “And then, watching all the skiers come out of the gate, that kind of got in my head a little bit. I was like ‘Wow, some of these guys are really good. I might not be able to keep up.’ ”

Earlier in the season, Yeaton might have given in to the negative thinking. This time, he knew how to flip it around.

“After the first run of the first race, I saw where I was, heard where I was, and that just got me into it,” he said. “I said ‘Let’s go,’ I was ready for the next run.”

As for the next year, Yeaton is ready for that too.

“Looking at my second run of slalom in the states, I was so close,” he said. “I want to keep staying right next to the top guys and be right up there with them all, every single time we ski.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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