After both finished as the Class A state runner-up last season, the Mt. Blue Nordic ski teams have their sights set on finishing one spot higher this winter.

The Cougars, long a staple along the Class A skiing landscape, will do so under new direction. Emmy Held, who skied competitively at Colby College before graduating from there in 2017, takes over for longtime ski coach Claire Polfus at Mt. Blue.

“This came along, and I had some experience coaching,” said Held, who coached at local central Maine ski clubs. “I love working with kids and getting people outside. It was a great fit for me.”

There are 26 skiers out for the Cougars this season across the boys and girls sides, making it one of the largest programs in the state, but for the girls at least it comes down to one name.

As a freshman last year, Emma Charles swept the individual Nordic titles for the Cougars and was a big reason Mt. Blue finished just two points behind Portland for the team state championship.

It’s a logical leaping off point for Held.

“It’s a little harder to say for me because I’m new to Maine high school skiing, but I know this team has won states in the past. It’s definitely a goal for some of our students.”

In Class B, the Maranacook girls finished fourth overall thanks to a fifth-place individual effort from Maura Taylor. Taylor is one of four seniors returning for the Black Bears, who return their entire state lineup from a year ago.

To count Maranacook out of the mix would be a mistake.

Katie Ide of Maranacook High School competes during the Maine Class B giant slalom championship at Black Mountain in Rumford last season. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

“Our entire state meet team from last year returns and they are joined by a number of other skiers who will push them,” veteran coach Steve DeAngelis said. “We have a very deep girls’ team, and if some of them can break through and really move up we will be even more competitive.”

The Maranacook boys got a state championship performance from Carter McPhedran in the classical race last season, and now a senior McPhedran anchors a team that swept both the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Class B state team titles.

“We have a lot of work to do, but have the raw material to still be competitive,” DeAngelis said.”

The Winthrop girls were impressive last season in Class C despite only four skiers on the roster, and it added a promising freshman in Phoebe Dow. With a more complete lineup, Winthrop — which finished second in the Mountain Valley Conference last season — could challenge for the top spot.

Mt. Abram’s boys finished third overall in Class B last season, and the girls team finished sixth. A senior-laden group a year ago, the Roadrunner boys will look to rebuild with some young talent. For the girls, only three skiers return from a small team last year leaving Mt. Abram looking for some depth to fill in on meet days.

ALPINE

The Maranacook girls won the Class B state Alpine championship last season and they have reloaded for another run at the title.

Senior Katie Ide finished third in the state in the giant slalom last winter, while seniors Caroline Welch and Dana Reynolds and sophomore Emily Harper all finished in the top 17 in the state in the slalom competition.

“They are eager and hungry to build on last year’s state meet success,” Maranacook coach Ronn Gifford said.

The same could be said for the Black Bear boys, who landed fifth overall at the state meet.

“The boys also return a strong core of seniors with a good mix throughout the classes,” Gifford said. “The team is looking to improve its consistency over the course of the winter which will put it in the mix come championship season. The talent is in the group to compete.”

In Class A, the Mt. Blue teams came close to team glory last winter.

The Cougar boys finished second in Class A, while the girls ended up third. Getting out of the KVAC meet in top form, and getting comfortable on hills other than its home Titcomb Mountain, are tantamount for head coach Mark Cyr.

“We are going to work very hard this year to train and race at different venues,” said Cyr, now in his 26th season. “All too often, ski racers become complacent with their home hill and freak out when they get to the big events at unfamiliar ski areas. We are looking at training more at Sugarloaf and hope to get a couple of sessions at Shawnee in preparation for this year’s state meet.”

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