The big week: State championship time
The boys of Falmouth and the girls of Greely are looking to erase painful memories of slalom spills, while Yarmouth, Freeport and Merriconeag hope to add a little more hardware to the trophy case.
Yes, the high school skiing state championships are upon us, the last incarnation of four events in three days we are likely to see for a while. Next year, the Nordic state meets are expected to remain during the February school vacation week but the alpine meets are likely to be held the Friday and Saturday of the following week.
Whether that change results in more skimeisters -- those hardy souls who ski all four races, two Nordic and two alpine -- at bigger venues (Sugarloaf, Sunday River?) remains to be seen.
This year, the Class A and Class C meets run Monday through Wednesday, in the Western Mountains and Aroostook County, respectively. Class B, held entirely at Black Mountain in Rumford, will run Wednesday through Friday.
The format for each meet is Nordic classical racing on the afternoon of Day 1, two-run giant slalom in the morning and Nordic freestyle in the late afternoon of Day 2, and two-run slalom in the morning and early afternoon of Day 3. Each Nordic race measures 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles.
Here´s a look at each meet:
CLASS A GIRLS: Mt. Blue is riding an eight-year streak as overall champion. The Cougar girls have won eight straight state titles, and are favored to do so again. The alpine venue is Mt. Abram in Greenwood. Nordic races will be held at nearby Black Mountain in Rumford.
Mt. Blue also won the alpine title last winter, in large part because some of Greely´s top skiers fell in their opening slalom run. The Rangers -- who won alpine in 2011 -- are determined to make amends.
"We´ve got more depth this year," said Greely Coach Mark Ouellette, who has 16 girls on his alpine squad.
In the competitive Western Maine Championships, Greely´s Elyse Dinan, Jordan Ouellette, Teal Otley and Jill Booth took four of the top six places in slalom, and freshman Otley took third in giant slalom. SMAA champion Scarborough could also be a factor.
Leavitt is the defending Nordic champion, but Portland is poised to bring home the first skiing state title in school history. Led by Abby Popenoe´s third-place individual finish, the Bulldogs were third of 27 schools in the Sassi Memorial race, behind only Class B Yarmouth and Class C Merriconeag (the winner).
Individually, Gorham senior Marissa Roberts looks to defend her giant slalom crown and perhaps pick up slalom as well. Dinan, a Greely junior, is also among the alpine favorites.
In Nordic, Popenoe and training partner Emily Bland of Windham should be near the front.
CLASS A BOYS: Falmouth ended a five-year Mt. Blue reign (and 12 in 14 years) last February, with a Nordic title to boot. Even so, the Falmouth alpiners feel it should have been a sweep; their only loss in three years still stings.
"I remember telling these kids," Falmouth Coach Tip Kimball said, "you can ski like your grandmother and win this thing. Just don´t fall."
But fall they did. Only several superb second runs in slalom kept the overall title from slipping away to Mt. Blue as well.
Maranacook, Edward Little and Scarborough may make some noise as well, Kimball said. Skowhegan won in 2011.
In Nordic, Falmouth will attempt to defend its title against the likes of Mt. Blue, Fryeburg Academy, Leavitt and Oxford Hills.
Individually, Fryeburg senior Silas Eastman is the overwhelming favorite to sweep both Nordic races. On the hill, Falmouth´s Alex Gowen and Dev Thomas, Curtis Paradis of Biddeford and Nick Papsadora of Thornton Academy are among the top skiers.
CLASS B GIRLS: Yarmouth is shooting for a seventh straight overall title. The Clippers still have the best balance of alpine and Nordic, but will be hard-pressed to win either discipline outright, particularly with only five girls skiing alpine.
Camden Hills is the defending alpine champion, and placed third overall last winter. Caribou was second in both Nordic and overall, and won the 2010 Nordic title.
Maranacook for Nordic and Mt. Abram for alpine will also be in the mix.
Individually, Elise Luce of Mt. Abram, Lydia Morin of Camden Hills and Chapin Dorsett of Yarmouth should be at the top of the alpine lists.
In Nordic, Sarah Becker of Yarmouth, Ashley Richards of Caribou, Kaelyn Woods of Gray-New Gloucester and Caroline Colan of Maranacook are looking to fill the boots of Maranacook graduate Abby Mace, last winter´s Maine Sunday Telegram Skier of the Year.
CLASS B BOYS: Yarmouth is the defending overall champion and winner of five of the past seven titles, but Maranacook appears poised to win for the first time since a three-year championship run that ended in 2002.
Knee injuries that knocked out two of Yarmouth´s top Nordic skiers, Thomas Sullivan and Carter Hall, as well as hand surgery for one of its top alpiners, Drew Grout, make an adequate defense difficult.
Even more challenging for a Yarmouth Nordic defense is that Chester Jacobs is still recovering from illness and will compete only in freestyle, and Jackson Hall has also been bothered by a viral infection.
"We´ve had more injuries this year than in the past five or six years put together," said Yarmouth Coach Bob Morse.
Look for Caribou and Maranacook to capitalize. Maranacook is defending alpine champion and remains formidable. Cape Elizabeth, Spruce Mountain and Camden Hills are in the mix.
Individually, Max Barber of Cape Elizabeth, Matt Highland of Yarmouth, Alec Daigle and Matt Delmar of Maranacook, Alex Hartford of Spruce Mountain and Jed Stevens of Mt. Abram will compete in alpine.
In Nordic, the top competitors are Braden Becker and Sam Alexander of Yarmouth, Colby Watts and Ethan Harriman of Maranacook, Thomas Faraday of Mt. Abram and Brendan Cyr of Caribou.
CLASS C GIRLS: Freeport is the defending overall and alpine champion, and Fort Kent is the only other school with a realistic chance of winning either title. Nine years have passed since a team other than Freeport or Fort Kent won the overall crown: Madawaska in 2004.
In Nordic, Merriconeag looks for a third straight state title, having already won both the Sassi Memorial and the Western Maine Conference.
Individually, defending champion (in both skate and classic) Zoe Chace-Donahue of Merriconeag, Lizzy Martin of Freeport and Hannah and Lydia Streinz of Katahdin will compete for top Nordic honors.
Taylor Enrico of Freeport and Alexa Pelletier of Fort Kent are among the top alpine skiers.
CLASS C BOYS: Fort Kent is the overall and alpine defending champion and looking for its fifth overall crown in seven years.
Freeport, whose two-year championship run ended last winter, will again battle for C supremacy. Telstar is within shouting distance and Mountain Valley remains in the mix.
Graduation wiped out any chances of NYA repeating in Nordic, opening the door for Merriconeag´s first title in any boys´ sport. Individually, Jack Pierce leads a strong Merriconeag squad. Josh Espy of Waynflete will also be tough.
In alpine, Freeport´s Blake Enrico, Ryder Bennell and Caleb Abbott form an impressive trio.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: