In Nordic skiing: Local racers hit the podium in season opener

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NC Nordic Ellis
North Country Falcon Avery Ellis digs deep as she races ahead of U-32’s Orli Schwartz during Tuesday’s varsity meet at the Craftsbury Outdoor center. Ellis would power her way to a third place finish in the opening Nordic meet of the season. Photos by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-18-201

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — Craftsbury Charger Anders Hanson captured a second place finish, and North Country Falcon Avery Ellis took third in the opening meet of the 2013-2014 Nordic varsity ski season on Tuesday.  The meet, held at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, was jointly hosted by Craftsbury Academy and Peoples Academy in Morrisville.

NC Nordic mass
Twelve schools and more than 150 student athletes kicked off the varsity Nordic ski season at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on Tuesday afternoon. Given the scarcity of snow over the last few years, the opportunity to hit the trails before the Christmas break generated a lot of excitement among the athletes. Photo by Richard Creaser

“It’s a bit earlier in the season than we are used to, but we love coming here,” North Country Coach Alex Gratton said of Tuesday’s event.  “Getting that opportunity to hit the trails early is a huge psychological boost for our veterans.  They live to ski.”

Unlike the past few winters, the North Country team was not obligated to make do with dry-land training.  With cold weather and snow on the ground, coupled with the outdoor center’s snow making capabilities, starting the season on snow has definitely generated excitement among the team members, Coach Gratton said.

“The rookies don’t necessarily know what they’re missing if there isn’t any snow,” the coach said.  “But the veterans can’t wait to hit the trails.”

NC Nordic Cotnoir
North Country’s Alex Cotnoir powers up the course’s daunting slope during Tuesday’s meet at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Racers from 12 high schools competed in the meet jointly hosted by Craftsbury Academy and Peoples Academy. Craftsbury Charger Anders Hanson would represent his school admirably with a second place finish, a mere three seconds behind Champlain Valley’s Charlie Maitland. Photo by Richard Creaser

Ellis, a cross-country running standout for NCU, admitted some excitement heading into the season.  The rigors of cross-country running provide the perfect workout to prepare for the Nordic season, she said.

“I don’t think I really have a favorite between running and skiing because I like them both,” Ellis said after the meet.  “I think I’m probably a stronger runner but I really like skiing, too.  It’s just great to be out here.”

Tuesday’s meet compelled the varsity athletes to tackle the course’s one steep incline twice en route to a five-kilometer race finish.  Despite the prospects of a big hill to commence the second and third legs of the race, Ellis wasn’t intimidated by the course.

“It’s steep but it’s not really all that long which helps,” she said.  “You can really build up some good momentum coming down the other side and use that to carry you through the forest.”

Coach Gratton expects great things from this year’s squad.  The blending of veterans and newcomers provides excellent opportunities for the team to bond.

NC Nordic Woodmansee
North Country’s Adele Woodmansee rapidly scrambles uphill as BFA-Fairfax’s Adi Toof (background right) and U-32’s Audrey Oliver race to close the gap. Varsity racers completed three circuits of the course and tackled this daunting uphill climb twice. Photo by Richard Creaser

“It’s almost a family thing going on,” he said.  “That breeds a little bit of competition and I think that will help motivate them to do their best.”

Nordic skiers return to action at the annual Mount Hor Hop on Mount Hor in Westmore on Friday, December 27.

contact Richard Creaser at [email protected].  For more sports please check out our sports category.


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