FREEPORT – To say the Freeport High School boys and girls ski teams had successful seasons is to understate their accomplishments. At the Class C state championships, held Feb.18-20, the boys finished second in the combined Nordic/alpine standings to rivals Fort Kent, but only by four points. The girls, on the other hand, took first over Fort Kent by a wide, 73-point margin.
Typically, ski meets are include Nordic (cross-country) and alpine (downhill) events held on different days at different locations. At each, participants can compete in multiple different skills. For instance, Nordic skiing consists in two techniques, called “classic” and “skate” (or “freestyle”). Alpine skiing features both slalom and giant slalom races, the courses for which are laid out differently.
“The state meet was the pinnacle of the season,” said Heather Zimmerman, who coaches the Freeport Nordic team with Joel Hinshaw. “The skiers impressed everyone at the meet: other teams took notice and began to talk about the team’s success. I think some of the skiers were even surprised by themselves.”
In the boys’ Nordic races, held at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle, Falcons Elijah McCurdy, Forrest McCurdy and Mason Cyr finished eighth (in a time of 17:21.9), ninth (17:28.5) and 10th (18:02.7), respectively, in the classic race. In classic races, skiers use the traditional cross-country technique of striding in a track. The performances secured second in the event for Freeport (43 points), behind Merriconeag (28), and ahead of Fort Kent (64).
Forrest McCurdy placed fifth (14:38.7) and Elijah McCurdy took 11th (15:09.9) in the skate race. In skate races, skiers move by pushing out and back to the side in a motion that resembles ice skating. Those numbers put the Falcons (53) in third for the event, behind Merriconeag (35) and Fort Kent (45).
Zimmerman described her skiers as hardy.
“[They] attended practice in all weather conditions and were always willing to work hard and get the job done," she said. "Throughout the season, [they] remained focused on the goals we had laid out in November, and began to come together as one cohesive unit.”
Zimmerman said that by the end of the season, skiers would line the course to cheer their teammates on. “Not surprisingly,” she said, “those races brought our best results.”
On the girls’ Nordic side of things, Elizabeth Martin finished fourth (19:46.7), Lily Johnston sixth (20:41.7) and Virginia Moore 10th (21:33.2) in the classic race. The times gave the Falcons second in the event (32), behind Merriconeag (23) but ahead of Orono (97).
In the skate race, Martin took third (16:36.5), Moore ninth (18:19.8) and Bethanie Knighton tenth (18:30.1), again giving Freeport second (34) behind Merriconeag (23), but this time in front of Fort Kent (89).
The alpine Falcons are coached by Jay Thomas, who knew from the start of the season that he had a “small but solid group of racers” on his hands. He credited his athletes, their parents, and cooperative weather for his squad’s accomplishments.
In the alpine portion of the competition, held at Bigrock Mountain in Mars Hill, Blake Enrico took third (with a combined time of 1:34.35 for his two runs down the mountain) in the slalom, while Ryder Bennell finished fifth (1:36.95) and Caleb Abbott landed seventh (1:37.38). The Falcons took second (42), behind Fort Kent (20), in the event. In the giant slalom, Bennell (1:27.75) and Enrico (1:29.18) finished one-two, Abbott took sixth (1:30.91), and Brady Davis snatched 10th (1:32.78). Together, the four boys’ times allowed Freeport to flip-flop positions with Fort Kent and take first with 19 points.
In the girls’ slalom, Taylor Enrico placed third (1:40.73) and Wynne Cushing ninth (1:48.02), giving Freeport third (63) behind Fort Kent (30) and Mountain Valley (50) in the event. In the giant slalom, Enrico finished fourth (1:34:12) and Cushing came in sixth (1:37.03). Once more, the Falcons also took third (66) behind Fort Kent (43) and Mountain Valley (48).
Thomas’s senior captains, Taylor Enrico, Brady Davis and Alec Salisbury, provided reliable leadership and contributed to the team’s top finishes, he said.
“The sophomore gang of Caleb Abbot, Ryder Bennell, Blake Enrico, Charlie Zachau and Wynne Cushing kept us guessing with amazing results at the finish line and some spectacular antics mid-course," he said. "Juniors Julia Schneider and Spencer Drake provided some scoring depth and support. Olivia Fouler and Lily Smith rounded out the girls team and kept us with the minimum of four scorers at several races. Freshmen Mathieu Stake, Isaac Salisbury and Lucy Zachau made great strides in their technique. Both Lucy and Isaac became key players at the state meet when we used their finishes as part of our team scores.”
Their consistency in both the alpine and Nordic races gave the lady Falcons their state title. While Fort Kent outperformed them downhill, Freeport’s cross-country numbers were superior by far. The Freeport boys were slightly less even, perhaps, but only because their giant slalom times were so superb; their slalom, freestyle, and classic performances were also noteworthy, if not enough to edge ahead of Fort Kent.
Zimmerman heaped praise on many of her athletes, highlighting the team-leading performances of freshman Forrest McCurdy and sophomore Elizabeth Martin but also pointing to notable improvements by Nick Nelsonwood, Chris West, Virginia Moore, Virginia Fullagar, Bethanie Knighton and Lia Wellen.
“By the end of the season,” she said, “the most impressive part of the team was its depth.
“This was a great way to end the season, because it emphasized the rewards to be reaped after you put in a few months of diligent work … Throughout the season, we had multiple skiers turning in top performances," Zimmerman said." However, it [wasn’t] until states that we were able to put together an entire team of solid performances. The team skied their hearts out … and it showed … It was a fantastic finale.”
“We’ve been trading top honors with [Fort Kent] for years,” Thomas said. “We have always enjoyed the competition at states. It’s been fun watching everyone race and then counting points at the end of the day. Often it’s so close that we have to wait until the awards ceremony to find out the results of the combined events.”
Skiers from classes A, B, and C that finished in the top 10 at their state meets were invited to compete at Black Mountain (alpine) and Sugarloaf (Nordic) in the Eastern High Schools Shoot-out for spots on the Maine State Team. Taylor Enrico, Davis, Ryder Bennell and Abbott participated, and Enrico and Bennell earned spots on the Maine State Alpine team. Forrest McCurdy, Lizzy Martin, Knighton, Wellen and Fiona Ahearn all made the Maine State Nordic team. The Maine state teams competed March 8-10, at Cannon Mountain, N.H., with racers from all across the Eastern half of the country.