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.
“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.”
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.
“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.