The Maine high school ski championships begin this week, and once again eyes will be kept on Mt. Blue in Class A and Maranacook in Class B for the possibility of bringing home state titles.

The Cougars are riding high off the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships last weekend at their home course at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington. Mt. Blue won three (boys and girls Nordic, girls Alpine) out of the possible four titles available at the meet. Sophomore Emma Charles led the way for Mt. Blue in Nordic, picking up individual titles in the classical (16:46) and freestyle (13:29) for the girls.

“It’s exciting that (states) will be back at Titcomb,” Mt. Blue Nordic coach Emmy Held said. “At our home course, where we train every day. With it being (winter break from school), we’re hoping to just have tons of people from the community, tons of family and friends out there supporting us. In terms of that, it feels like a really exciting day, because the team is excited about how they’ve been doing this whole season and really kind of building steam as the season goes on.”

Freshman Taylor Gordon won an individual title in Alpine in the slalom race (1:21.46). On the boys side, Mt. Blue had a near-sweep with senior Eli Yeaton, who captured the slalom (1:18.61) title and finished second (1:40.32) to Oxford Hills’ Colby Vandecker in the giant slalom.

Both Mt. Blue teams have unfinished business entering the state meets. In Alpine, the Cougars finished second in boys and third in girls last year, while Mt. Blue finished runner-up in both boys and girls Nordic.

Held said while the Nordic teams are certainly looking for different results, the team has stayed loose and focused more on individual aspects of each skier’s game.

“They’re really hoping there’s some different results this year,” Held said. “They’re hoping to win of course. But they also know that’s not something that we really talk about very much. I think they talk about it some with each other, but we’re really focused more on the process of what are we doing in every practice… It’s a lot more about individual goals for each of the kids on the team and how they can improve.”

Maranacook is also riding high heading into the Class B championships. The Black Bears finished as the runner-up in both boys and girls skiing to Mt. Blue at the KVAC championships last weekend. In Alpine, the Maranacook girls had a strong showing, particularly in the giant slalom, placing four skiers in the top-10 in the event. The best overall performance by the group was Katie Ide, who finished fifth (1:24.09) in the slalom event. In boys Alpine, the Black Bears were led by Robbie McKee, who finished third (1:19.23) in the slalom, a mere second off placing first.

The Maranacook boys Nordic team carry the heavy weight of expectations entering states. The Black Bears have won five of the last six Class B titles, including each of the last three consecutive years. Maranacook is paced by senior Carter McPhedran, who swept the KVAC freestyle (12:18.8) and classical (14:40) titles.

“The big thing about Carter, he is about as complete a package (for a skier) as I can remember seeing,” Maranacook Nordic coach Steve DeAngelis said. “Mainly because he absolutely loves to ski train. That’s a giant part of it, because y0u can’t really be good at Nordic skiing unless you like to train. And he loves it. He’s got an Alpine skiing background and he downhills like a bandit, he goes so fast down the hills. I will say this without question, there are guys who can stay with him on a skate course, but he’s the best classic starter in the state, by far. Nobody can stride up hills like he can and nobody can ski down hills like he can.”

Despite recent history and the strength of their top skiers, the Black Bears may be entering states as an underdog. DeAngelis said the meet will be a true test of the squad’s depth.

“Without question, we’re good at the top,” DeAngelis said. “There are definitely other teams like Freeport, almost certainly Caribou coming down from the County, who have more depth than we do. The question is, can our top guys get up (in the standings) enough and can our fourth skier at least close the gap (in points)? … We keep tweaking technique and push it (in practice) to pull those guys up, but we’ll see what happens.”

The Maranacook girls Nordic team will be led by Maura Taylor and Sophie O’Clair, the top two finishers in both events during the KVACs. DeAngelis said the group has developed well, with a strong middle pack that could help make the difference where the team will place.

The Black Bears could receive some competition from Mt. Abram, which captured the Mountain Valley Conference title off the performance of Alex Hemingway, who like McPhedran swept the conference’s freestyle (13:14.2) and classical (15:44.1) titles, followed in both events by teammate Cam Walters. In fact, the Roadrunners placed four skiers — including Chandler Rollins and Jeff Warnock — in the freestyle race. The same four hit the top six spots in classical.

The championships start with the Class A Alpine championships on Friday (moved back a day after Thursday’s weather forecast) and Saturday at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton. The Class A, B and C Nordic championships will be at Titcomb on Monday and Tuesday, wrapped up by the Class B Alpine championships on Feb. 19-20 at Black Mountain in Rumford.

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer


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