FARMINGTON — It was Emmy Held’s first Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship as a coach. Her Mt. Blue Nordic teams made sure it couldn’t have gone better.

The Cougars won the girls and boys KVAC Nordic titles on their home course of Titcomb Mountain, with the girls, led by the second title of the week from sophomore Emma Charles, totaling 793 points in Saturday’s classical race to finish with 1,586 points in the two-day championship, well ahead of Maranacook (1,516), Leavitt (1,512) and Camden Hills (1,248).

Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference girls Taylor Gordon of Mt. Blue stands at the podium with runner-up Liz Dietrich of Oxford Hills, right, and third-place finisher Anna Baldwin of Hampden Academy. Kennebec Journal photo by Drew Bonifant

The boys didn’t have the race winner — Maranacook’s Carter McPhedran won both Wednesday’s freestyle race and then Saturday’s classical — but were just as dominant, totaling 1,565 points to beat Edward Little (1,536), Maranacook (1,474) and Oxford Hills (1,409).

“We’re just working with some pretty fantastic athletes,” Held said. “It’s exciting to see their attitudes out there. They were excited for each other. … The boys knew that they were up by four points after Wednesday, and they each had kind of their gameplan.”

Mt. Blue won a girls title in Alpine as well, with freshman Taylor Gordon’s slalom victory leading the Cougars to 774 points for the day, 1,550 overall and first place over Maranacook (1,535), Edward Little (1,470) and Oxford Hills (1,460).

The Cougars led Maranacook by only two points after Wednesday’s giant slalom, but coach Mark Cyr felt Saturday would suit his team better.

“We are clearly a better slalom team than we are a GS team, and that has a lot to do with the hill that we train on,” Cyr said. “This is a great slalom hill, not a great training hill for GS. … We knew if we could come out of the first day close to Maranacook even, or just slightly ahead, we had a good chance of coming out ahead overall with the slalom.”

Oxford Hills, led by Colby Vandecker’s overall first-place finish (he was first in the GS and second in Saturday’s slalom), ended a long drought by taking the boys Alpine title with 1,555 points, beating Mt. Blue and slalom champion Eli Yeaton (1,535), Camden Hills (1,516) and Maranacook (1,513).

Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference boys slalom champion Eli Yeaton of Mt. Blue stands at the podium with runner-up Colby Vandecker of Oxford Hills, right, and third-place finisher Robbie McKee of Maranacook. Kennebec Journal photo by Drew Bonifant

“These senior boys, especially, came in really ready to go this year,” Oxford Hills coach Mike Grace said. “I’ve been doing this 21 years, and this is the first one of these I’ve taken home.”

In Nordic, Held acknowledged the home-course advantage that came with the Cougars trying to win a title where they’ve practiced all season. The state championships will be at Titcomb as well.

“We train on these hills. It was really cool for them to be like ‘Honestly, this felt easy compared to all the interval workouts you make us do,’ ” she said. “I make them go up the hills seven times, and they only had to do it twice today.”

Still, the race course Saturday had some different turns than the Cougars’ practice layout. Not that it mattered to Charles, who cruised to a classical victory at 16:46, well ahead of runner-up and teammate Brynne Robbins (18:04.7).

“I was a little nervous about (it), since I had never done this exact 2.5 K,”  Charles said. “But I actually like it, dare I say, better than our normal course. … They were ideal conditions. I don’t think they could have asked for better.”

Mt. Blue used depth to win the title on the boys side. In Evan Hornbach (second overall), Sam Judkins (fifth), Jackson Joyce (eighth), Carson Zundel (ninth) and Josh Smith (10th), the Cougars had strength in numbers.

“Every single one of them counted, and it mattered, even some of the ones that weren’t going to score for us, if they could displace others,” Held said. “They were reporting back to me, ‘I got past the one I was supposed to, coach!’ ”

McPhedran, who won Wednesday’s skate race at 12:18, took the classical title at 14:40.7, even after he competed at another race in Rumford earlier in the day.

“It didn’t go well, so I think that really helped me, in a weird way,” he said. “I had trouble pushing myself in the 10K, I didn’t expend a lot of energy in it, and that made me really mad. So I used that as fuel for the classic race, I think.”

In Alpine, the Cougars won yet another title while relying on one of their youngest skiers. Gordon, who had already won the GS title at 1:47.85, won the slalom crown at 1:21.46. She was fifth in the combined KVAC and MVC field after the first run, but had the fastest time in the second.

“I try to not get too ahead of myself. Just stay calm, pretty much, when I’m on the course,” she said. “Towards the beginning of the season, I started to get worked up because I didn’t know what to expect. … Now I get more used to it.”

“She’s very composed and poised,” Cyr said. “She likes competition. … She thought she should have done better on the first run, she got some information about the course, and that may have (helped) her.”

In the boys’ event, Oxford Hills’s Vandecker came in with the lead after winning the giant slalom, and held off Mt. Blue’s Eli Yeaton to finish first overall at 2:58.58.

“I know slalom’s not as much of my strong suit, but I’ve been trying to beat some of the kids that ski here,” he said. “My first run wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, my second run I definitely fixed some of the problems that I had. The motivation was to have the team score.”

Yeaton couldn’t catch Vandecker for the overall title, but still got the KVAC slalom title at 1:18.61.

“Today I was really just focused on having fun,” he said. “Being my senior race, last home race, I just wanted to have a good time. That’s really what brought me into it. I wasn’t too stressed at the top, so I was ready to go.”

The Mountain Valley Conference boys Nordic title went to Mt. Abram, which had classical winner Alex Hemingway (15:44.1) and four of the top five finishers Saturday, and which totaled 1,584 points to beat Orono (1,531), Dirigo (1,515) and Spruce Mountain (1,505).

The Winthrop girls entered the day trailing Orono by three points but made up the difference to win the overall Nordic title. Mt. Abram had the individual girls champion in Emily Kidd, who won Saturday’s classical race.

The MVC Alpine titles went to the Spruce Mountain (1,557) boys, who defeated Mt. Abram (1,538) and Mountain Valley (1,532); and the Rangeley girls, who totaled 1,556 points to beat Spruce Mountain (1,549) and Mountain Valley (1,520). Slalom individual titles went to Spruce Mountain’s Jacob Paradis (15th overall) and Mt. Abram’s Alice MacKay (fifth overall).


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