Maranacook skiers Andrew Dupuy, left, Sam McKee, Michael Tamborini and Dylan McGarr inspect the course prior to the start of the high school slalom ski race Tuesday at Lost Valley in Auburn. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In some ways, it’s almost business as usual for area high school ski teams.

Almost.

While every high school sport in Maine has had to work around coronavirus safety guidelines put forth by the state and the Maine Principals’ Association, skiing has the advantage of being competed outdoors. Maintaining distance is also easy for skiers to do during competition.

“It’s been pretty seamless,” Mt. Blue Alpine coach Mark Cyr said. “The (Alpine skiers) wear their face coverings like they always have, actually. That hasn’t changed at all. We do have to keep the numbers down as far as the races. We had a race at Titcomb, and I think we had 50 athletes, compared to a typical race with 140 or 150 (skiers), so we keep it down. Our target is 80, because we have to keep it under 100 total people. Counting 80 athletes, we could have as many as 10 coaches and then volunteers and workers at the race. We try keep the number of racers, the (Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference) racers, to about 80.

“A couple of places, we have to social distance at the start, where the kids usually mingle with other teams and other athletes,” Cyr added. “We have to kind of keep them separate. When it comes to the finish corral, you can’t high five, no fist bumps or anything like that. Just have to ski over and be with the rest of the team that have already finished, that sort of thing. Just the social distancing thing.”

From a competitive standpoint, Nordic skiing might be the most affected by the guidelines. Skiers are required to wear masks while competing, in a sport that requires intense cardio effort.

“It is a challenge, wearing a mask in Nordic skiing,” Mt. Abram Nordic coach Merit “Buzz” Bean said. “It’s kind of like a restrictor plate in NASCAR racing. Especially if you wear glasses, that’s where I struggle. They fog up pretty easy. But the kids are doing it and they’re excited.”

Maranacook Nordic coach Steve DeAngelis said he’s been impressed with how well his team has followed guidelines to this point.

“They’re incredibly resilient and grateful for the opportunity to even be in school, and when they can be, to do sports,” DeAngelis said. “They’re so good at masking, at following any guidelines that they have to do. I’m truly just so impressed, not just my skiers, but the students at school. They’re just so awesome…. (COVID) is a bummer. There’s some traditions that we do that we can’t do. But by the same token, because it’s an outside sport, there are some moments that almost feel normal.”

In Nordic, defending Class A girls champ Mt. Blue should once again be a force. Junior Emma Charles returns as one of the top skiers in the state. Charles swept the freestyle and classical events at both the KVAC and Class A championships. Charles won both events in dominating fashion at the Class A meet, besting second-place finisher Eva Clement of Falmouth by 25 seconds in the freestyle, and topping teammate and second-place finisher Brynne Robbins by nearly a minute in the classical. Robbins and Bridget Reusch should also add top times for the Cougars. Carson Zundel looks to be the top boys skier for Mt. Blue.

Ella Trefethen of Maranacook skis to the finish line Tuesday after clearing the last gate during a high school slalom meet at Lost Valley in Auburn. Trefethen raced to a fifth-place finish out of the 20 girls who competed. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Maranacook boys Nordic squad — which finished fourth last year at the Class B meet — have shown some early promise, with top times by Max Olmstead, Silas Bartol and Thomas Poling. The girls team — which finished third at states last year — will be led by Sophie O’Clair, who was fourth in the classical and ninth in freestyle at the Class B meet.

DeAngelis is happy to have the opportunity for the team to compete this season.

“The biggest thing we may have is the KVAC meet at the end of the year, but I don’t even really think about it,” DeAngelis said. “I think zero about the competition because, it really does not matter to me at all. We feel lucky, because Kennebec (County) has been green. Poor Leavitt hasn’t even had a practice, because they’ve been yellow the entire time, and they’re literally a half an hour away from us.”

The Mt. Abram boys Nordic team is in line for another strong run, after finishing second in Class C last year. Alex Hemingway — who won the Class C classical title and finished second in the freestyle — returns, along with Cam Walters (fifth in classical at Class C meet, 11th in freestyle) and Jeff Warnock rounding out the group. Emily Kidd and Julia Wells have been early standouts for the Mt. Abram girls team.

“They’ve put the time in,” said Bean, who is also the men’s and women’s Nordic coach at the University of Maine at Farmington. “Ski races are won in the summer, that’s my original quote. They really did (work hard). We put training programs together for them and they’re really psyched. Jeff Warnock is really coming along. Emily Kidd had a great race (Wednesday). She put some time in during the summer. That was totally on them, I completely stayed away from everyone this summer, because of COVID. I did plans, they did the work and it’s good.”

Anna Laberge of Maranacook High School skis to the finish line Tuesday after clearing the last gate during the high school slalom meet at Lost Valley in Auburn. Laberge raced to a third-place finish out of the twenty girls that competed. Skowhegan High School, Gardiner High School and Maranacook participated while Edward Little High School, Mount Blue and Leavitt had to back out because of COVID-19 restrictions. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In Alpine, Mt. Blue is set up for another strong season after winning a Class A girls title and a second-place finish at states for the boys last season. The Cougars have lost their top skiers on both teams; Eli Yeaton graduated and Taylor Gordon is now at Waterville Valley Academy in New Hampshire.

Jack Keating, Josh Smith and Sam Goodspeed have all been early standouts for the Mt. Blue boys, while Sadie McDonough, Katie Yeaton and Kloe Dean lead the girls team.

“I wish we had more people to race against,” Cyr said. “We’ve raced against Maranacook the other night and Mt. Abram and did very well, took (places) one, two, three and five, something like that. But I’d like to see other teams, Oxford Hills, Edward Little, Mountain Valley.”

Maranacook — which swept both the boys and girls Class B Alpine titles last season — is also well stocked for the 2021 season. Sam McKee and Dylan McGarr return for the boys, while Anna Erb (fifth in the Class B giant slalom last year), Meghan Mahoney, Ella Delisle and Anna Laberge are early standouts for the Black Bears.

Alice Mackay (Last year’s Mountain Valley Conference slalom champion, 12th in Class B giant slalom) leads Mt. Abram Alpine.

The KVAC/MVC championships are tentatively scheduled for early March at both Black Mountain in Rumford and Titcomb Mountain in Farmington.

“With the rule the MPA made (Wednesday) afternoon with counties that are yellow, sports can still practice and compete, I think the KVACs to how it has in the past,” Cyr said. “Except we’ll still have to stay under that 100 (person) barrier. The number of athletes per team is going to shrink down significantly. If we have all the KVAC teams — and I’d have to do the math — it could be as little as four or five athletes, instead of eight athletes, per team.”

The state championship ski meets have not been scheduled. The MPA removed Aroostook County — originally scheduled to host the Nordic state meets in all three classes, as well as the Class B Alpine meet — as a possible host in October, stating it would seek alternative sites for the state championship races.

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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