Putney, VT (March 9): The Banknorth New England Bill Koch League Festival in Putney, Vermont this weekend saw the passing of the flame from former New England Olympians to the youngsters of the sport, kids ages 0-13. 1952 Olympian John Caldwell, who started the U.S. Team from his backyard in Putney, Vermont, was on hand to greet his former skiers. Among the returning Olympians were Mike Gallagher, '64, '68 and '72, Bob Gray '68 and '72, Charlie Kellogg, '68, Tim Caldwell, '72, '76, '80 and '84, Terry Porter, '76, Leslie Bancroft Krichko, '80 and '88, Kristin Petty Bills, '88, Leslie Thompson Hall and Dorcas DenHartog Wonsavage, '88, '92 and '94, and John Farra '92. And of course, Olympic Silver medalist and League namesake himself, Bill Koch, was on hand to sign every poster, hat, ski suit and poster put before him, and to inspire kids, young and old, to enjoy the sport at any and every level of participation.
The 12 former Olympians led each of the 12 BKL District Teams in the Opening Parade, and the Opening Ceremonies included a lighting of the torch. Then, the weekend belonged to the kids.
The racing belonged to the Vermont Districts this year, with Southern and Northern battling it out and Central keeping them honest. But Western Massachusetts Steven Bedard snagged a second in the J3 boys 4.5km classic race, and Alex Howe from Central NH was third, and Stanis Moody-Roberts snuck in with a 6th for Southern Maine. J4 girl Cozy Mitchell also got a 6th place in her 3.5km classic race for Central NH, followed by Emily Atwood for Southern Maine. Southwest NH's Nadja Kern was 2nd for the J5girls 2.5km classic race, with Southern Maine's Rachel Hall in 4th, Eastern Massachusett's Corey Stock in 5th, and Story Southworth in 8th for Central NH. James Yokabaskas from Southern Maine got a 6th in the 2.5km classic in the J5 age group, followed by Elie Henig, Eastern MA, and teammate Jackson Rich in 9th.
Later in the afternoon, Rachel Hall (J5) won gold in the freestyle sprints, another laurel for Southern Maine, and Alex Howe (CENH) also got a third ahead of Steven Bedard (WEMA), with Camrin James sneaking into 9th place amongst the Vermonters.
Sunday dawned with blustery blue skies, and the skiers whipped around the courses in the District Relays. Vermont's depth shone, as Southern Vermont's Kyle Dewey (J3), Magnus Walker (J5) and Austin Caldwell (J4) won by a margin of 19 seconds ahead of Northern Vermont, with Southern Vermonth's #2 team in third. For the girls' it was also Southern Vermont for the win, with the team of Sophie Caldwell (J3) Cam McDermot (J5) and Kvehl McDermott (J4). Central Vermont snuck into second ahead of Southern Vermont's #2 team, but it was surprise Southern Maine in fourth – Elise Moody-Roberts (J3), Rachel Hall (J5) and Emily Attwood (J4).
When the final ribbons and medals were handed out at the end of the weekend of racing, from former Olympians to the future of cross-country skiing, everyone's heart had been touched by the passing of the flame of Olympic ambition and the glow of camaraderie and sportsmanship.
* The New England Nordic Ski Association is a non-profit organization that oversees the U.S Ski Assocation's regional Olympic development programs for cross-country skiing in New England as well as recreational, eduational and competive programs for NENSA members and their communities.
* Support for NENSA's programs comes from Title Sponsor Banknorth Group, Inc, parent company of People's Heritage, Bank of New Hampshire, and Bank of Vermont. Associate sponsors are Buderus Hydronic Systems, Hannaford Brothers, the Outdoor Life Network, and Yoko/Toko.
*For more information on cross-country skiing in New England please visit, www.NENSA.net