Mt. Blue’s Henri McCourt begins the first climb of the Sassi Memorial 5K classical race at Black Mountain in Rumford in January. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file

Sure, the trophies look nice and shiny, as do the medals around their necks. But for all their victories, the Mt. Blue Nordic skiers measure success in ways other than times and podium placements.

“I often talk to my athletes about having more process goals than product goals,” fifth-year coach Emmy Held said. “I don’t necessarily want to focus on, ‘OK, we just won KVACs, we were in this place at states,’ that kind of thing.”

While a state championship remains the Cougars’ ultimate goal — the girls won their third straight Class A title last winter, while the boys won their second in a row — they’re also thinking about other things, from proper technique to waxing skis.

“Those are kind of some of the themes I’m hearing with our athletes, and I just try to always match whatever their goals are,” Held said. 

“I will definitely say there is some enthusiasm of winning a next consecutive state title — they would love to do that — but I think I’m always putting pressure on them a little bit more to think about how are we going to get there, what do we want this season to look like, not just what color medal do you want this season. There’s a lot more to it than just that.”

Much of that thinking will come from a talented junior class, led on the boys’ side by Henri McCourt, who captured the Class A pursuit title last winter with a combined time of 30 minutes, 36.3 seconds. Classmates Grayson Hoeft (sixth in Class A), Elias Bartlett (11th) and Eli Hoeft (24th) also return, as does junior Luke Doscinski (14th).


“It’s a really strong junior class this year,” Held said. “They’re close. It’s neat this year. I’ve always described that class, my juniors, as being pretty chaotic” — she said with a laugh — “and this year I’m really seeing that maturity growing and leadership starting with them, which is really cool.”

The girls have their own star junior named McCourt — Nora McCourt, Henri’s twin sister, was third in last year’s Class A meet and won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference freestyle title.

“They train really hard,” Held said of the McCourts. “They train together year-round. They’re pretty fantastic.”

Maya Kellett, another returning junior, was eighth in the Class A meet. Seniors Natalie McCarthy (ninth), Lucinda Carroll (11th) and Gracie Ross also return.

“This year is a smaller team for us, but it’s really kind of consolidated,” said Held, who lost seven seniors from last season. “I feel like we really don’t have a huge spread. It’s a very deep team.”

Maranacook, which placed fourth at last season’s Class B state meet, returns five boys and three girls. On the boys’ side, senior Wyatt Stevenson was third overall in the Class B meet and classmate Silas Bartol was 12th. Junior Cooper Tarbuck and sophomore Jeffrey Lemieux also placed in the state meet, and sophomore Nick Harper also returns.


Freshmen Carter Bennett, Timothy Booth, Milo Winter are new to the program.

Olympia Farrell of Maranacook Community High School competes during the Roy Varney Hornet Classic in Turner on Jan. 31, 2023. Farrell placed sixth. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The Black Bear girls welcome back seniors Olympia Farrell (third overall in the Class B meet) and Elsa Bergdahl (fifth). Sophomore Anwen Kane also placed in the state meet.

Juniors Kendra Bor and Lina Schulz and freshmen Harper Olmstead, Ella Giles, Kira Pelletier and Emily Saunders round out the roster.

“We have excellent leadership and talent with our two senior boys and two senior girls and some strong skiers among our juniors and sophomores,” Maranacook coach Steve DeAngelis said in an email. 

“The progression of our two incoming juniors and seven incoming freshmen will be a key ingredient in how both the boys’ and girls’ teams come along. The coaches are encouraged by the athleticism we are seeing in the new members of the team and think we will see them developing rapidly as proficient skiers.”

Mt. Abram was greeted with some early-season snowflakes last week, giving coach Lucas Milliken’s charges a chance to practice on the white stuff before the season starts later this month.


The Roadrunners may need the extra time, too, as the boys have several newcomers to a team that placed second to Orono by six points at last season’s Mountain Valley Conference championships.  Mt. Abram lost senior Jeff Warnock, who won the classical, classic pursuit and freestyle crowns at the MVC meet, to graduation. Lyle Hering, who was seventh, also departed.

Carter Butterfield of Mt. Abram skis toward the finish to take third place in the freestyle race on the first day of the MVC Nordic championships last season at Black Mountain in Rumford. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Carter Butterfield, who finished third at the MVC meet, returns, as does Aspen Mitchell, Evan Bilodeau and Robert Butterfield, who missed last season due to injury. Joselyn Smith and Olivia Tozier return for the girls. 

The Roadrunners also will have several newcomers who are fairly new to skiing, Milliken said.

“With only a few returning athletes and the majority of the team being new to skiing, we are focusing on making skiing fun and building a positive team culture,” Milliken said in an email. 

“We are lucky to have early season snow right now, and we are able to train on snow on the fields behind school. This is a great opportunity for us all to become more comfortable on our skis, and it is way more fun than the dryland training we usually have to do. We are grateful for it.”

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