This past weekend, the fastest high school skiers in New England and New York flocked to Rangeley, Maine to ski in the Eastern High School Championships. The year’s final major competition welcomed athletes back from the Junior Olympics in Truckee, CA, and also younger skiers who had raced in the New England J2 Championships the previous weekend. Teams from Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont brought twenty-four boys and girls to race in a 5km skate, 1.3 km classic sprint, mixed gender and technique 4×2.5km relay, and a culminating 7.5km mass start classic race.
Friday afternoon brought sun and fast skiing to the trails at Rangeley. The boys’ race was marked by close times on a challenging but fast course. Two darkhorse skiers from Maine landed on the podium, with Welley Ramsay taking first, and Lauren Turner tying with Massachusetts standout Chris Stock for second, just over 3 seconds off the winner. Vermont teammates Skyler Davis and Jake Barton took forth and fifth, respectively, 6.6 and 10.5 seconds back.
Massachusetts skier Corey Stock, fresh off a dominant performance at JOs, continued her winning ways with a 23 second victory over her teammate Hilary Rich. Rachel Hall skied a fantastic race on her way to third place, leading a pack of Vermont skiers who swept places 3-6 (Hall, Keely Levins, Kaitlynn Miller, and Hannah Wright). After the first day of competition, Vermont rode this depth to first place in the team standings, ahead of rivals Maine and New Hampshire. Despite strength at the top, Massachsetts could not overcome a lack of depth, and remained in fourth.
Day 2 started off with a classic sprint, which was run in a wave format, with heats of 5 skiers (1 from each state) starting 1 minute apart. Though the race contained this head-to-head action for increased excitement, the clock was all that really mattered, as the results were based upon finishing time alone. Hilary Rich carried the momentum from her skate race through to the second day, and won the sprint in dominant fashion, skiing a full 4 seconds faster than SMS’s Heather Mooney. Continuing the excellent performance from the top Massachusetts skiers, Corey Stock and Olga Golovkina snagged third and fourth, while Vermont’s Kaitlynn Miller rounded out the top five.
In the boys’ race, Skyler Davis showed that he was in a class of his own on the sprint track, winning by an astronomical 7.9 seconds over 1.3 kilometers. Chris Stock suffered a fall in the early going, but managed to ski to second place, just edging his Massachusetts compatriot Jackson Rich. Peter Hegman and Nate Niles, from Vermont and Maine, respectively, edged a tightly packed group in the top ten to take 4th and 5th.
The two individual races set up what promised to be an exciting afternoon of relay racing. Vermont clearly had the strongest team top to bottom, but Massachusetts had shown excellent top end ability. It was anyone’s guess who would emerge victorious. After the snow had settled, it was Massachusetts on top, taking the relay victory for a second consecutive year. The Mass. Team remained in second for the first three legs, skied by Chris Stock, Hilary Rich, and Isaac Hoenig. Corey Stock proved to be unstoppable, however, and just as she anchored a victorious New England J2 team in the JOs relay, she brought the Massachusetts ‘A’ team from 15 seconds down to claim the title. Vermont’s ‘B’ team, led by spectacular performances by Sprint King Skyler Davis, John Dixon, Heather Mooney, and Rachel Hall, edged the ‘A’ team (Kalle Jahn, Jake Barton, Kaitlynn Miller, Keely Levins), who landed the final spot on the podium.
A fatigued mass of young racers rolled out of bed early on Sunday morning for their fourth race in three days. Temperatures remained cold and a light snow was falling, making for a variety of wax decisions. The course was two laps of a 3.75km track, with limited climbing and a substantial double pole section. The girls race provided early excitement, as Massachusetts skier Hannah Smith skied aggressively off the front of the pack, holding as much as a 15 second lead from kilometer 2 to 6. After the lap, however, a chase pack led by Corey Stock and Heather Mooney appeared to become slightly desperate, and put in a huge move near the 6km mark to swallow Smith back up. No one could match the furious pace of Stock and Mooney, and a finish lane sprint seemed inevitable until Mooney took an unfortunate fall coming into the final stretch. After the Massachusetts-Vermont 1-2 punch, Kaitlynn Miller continued her solid performances, as she skied uncontested to the last spot on the podium. Olga Golovkina took fourth, and Cambria McDermott edged Emily Atwood for fifth.
The boys skied a strategically cautious race, with no one willing to make a move until Chris Stock put the hurt down on the final climb. This charge quickly strung out what had been a solid pack of 10-15, and only Stock’s teammate, Isaac Hoenig, was able to match his pace. The two hammered the final kilometer of double-pole as though they were already in the lanes, Hoenig nipping at the heels of a motivated Stock. They came into the stadium together, and Isaac pulled almost even with Chris as they entered the lanes, but the elder Stock brother’s finish was too much, and Chris emerged victorious for the second consecutive year. Hoenig came in three seconds behind, and New Yorker Kevin Sprague led the chase pack in third. Welley Ramsay followed his victory in the skate with a fourth place finish, and Skyler Davis demonstrated his ability to ski distance as well as sprint, as he took fifth place.
Vermont’s lead was never really in doubt, as a combination of top-end speed and incredible depth in both the boys’ and the girls’ fields proved to be too much for any other state to handle. Maine took second, narrowly edging New Hampshire. Massachusetts and New York took fourth and fifth, respectively. With another season in the books, young racers in New England emerge with lofty goals and aspirations for the coming year. Vermont holds the title for now, but if the incredible front runners from Massachusetts can be reinforced with greater depth, they will be a force to be reckoned with. A summer of dryland training will be the difference maker.