Class A Alpine skiing: Oxford Hills sitting pretty

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BRIDGTON — As the first day of the Class A Alpine skiing championships unfolded, it became clear that competitors who could stay on their skis for the length of the giant slalom course at Shawnee Peak would claim victory, even if their time didn’t place them on the podium.

“It’s a fight for survival up there,” the Oxford Hills senior said. “Whoever fights the hardest is going to come down. A lot of great skiers have fallen.”

Three of the top eight skiers after the boys’ first run either didn’t finish or were disqualified in their second. Ten others either fell or missed a gate in their first or second trip on a wild Thursday afternoon.

Oxford Hills kept all of its skiers upright and placed three in the top 10 and four in the top 30 to win the GS team title. The Vikings take a six-point lead over Mt. Blue heading into Saturday’s slalom.

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“We didn’t have any goals really, just ski the best we can. That’s all we could ever do,” said Michaud, who led the Vikings with a fifth-place finish. “I like where we’re sitting right now. Everybody is putting together a really good team effort.”

With strong showings from Chris Burns (ninth), Ryalnd VanDecker (10th) and McKinley Murphy (30th), the Vikings (54 points) overtook Mt. Blue (60), Edward Little (86) and defending state champion Falmouth (87), which had brothers Joseph Lesniak (1:32.24) and Thomas Lesniak finishing 1-2.

“I thought those top three boys skied great, and then my sixth kid (Murphy), a freshman, really skied solid,” Oxford Hills coach Mike Grace said. “Coming  in from next-to-last (out of the starters’ gate) on the second run, he did a pretty good job. It’s getting a little greasy on that course.”

The course proved treacherous almost from the start of the second run. Biddeford’s Curtis Paradis led after the first run and appeared to be well on his way to another impressive time on his second when he fell hard just before the final gate. Edward Little’s Evan Mancini, who was tied for third after the first run, missed a gate on the head wall and didn’t finish.

Michaud (1:38.44) and a number of other skiers took their measure of the conditions on the first descent and adjusted from there.

“I saw a couple of parts of the course where I could be straighter, be a little bit more aggressive and I think that really helped me on my second run,” Michaud said.

Lewiston’s Reilly Bolduc was third (1:35.44)  and Tanner Dillingham of Edward Little fourth (1:36.55).

‘With the conditions today, I feel like I did really well,” said Bolduc, who finished fourth in last year’s GS. “They didn’t reset (between runs), so it got really hard-packed, really icy. Like they said, it’s a fast course. You’ve just got to sail on your edge and be pointed down the hill.”

Mt. Blue finished second behind Felix Bonnevie (eighth), Kyle Farrington (12th), Miles Pelletier (14th) and Anthony Franchetti (26th). Leavitt’s Derek Plourde was 11th.

Girls’ winner Elyse Dinan (1:36.09) led defending champion Greely to the girls’ gold (38). Falmouth’s Alex Shapiro and Krysia Lesniak finished 2-3 to put the Yachtsmen in second (68). Kennebunk (80) was third and Edward Little, led by a fourth-place individual finish by Brooke Lever (1:40.39), was fourth overall (84).

“It’s a very fast course. It kind of felt like I was flying through it,” said Lever, a sophomore. “It’s a really fun course, though. It’s a lot different from what I usually do, a lot steeper than I usually ski.”

Lever, whose older sister, Allarie, won both the giant slalom and slalom last year, was hoping for a top-10 finish after a couple of practice runs at Shawnee earlier in the week

“I just tried to remain calm and really have fun with it,” Lever said “I don’t do well under stress. If I just kind of let loose, I do better than I hoped.”

Mt. Blue’s Mallory Parker was eighth and Katerina Bessey 14th. Taylor Benson of Leavitt finished 16th, while EL’s Hannah Arel and Samantha Herrick were 17th and 19th, respectively.

Alpine skiers enjoyed an extra week to prepare for the state meets. Traditionally, the Alpine and Nordic meets have been held during the same week, school vacation week. The Maine Principals’ Association moved the Alpine back a week this year in hopes of having the bigger ski areas host them again.

“I think it gave more time to prepare, to get physically and mentally prepared for the race, so I think it helped a lot. I liked it,” Lever said. “More time to practice couldn’t hurt.”

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