H.S. Skiing: Leavitt girls, Falmouth boys capture nordic crowns

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RUMFORD — Lucy Knowlton’s tears told a tale of joy.

The Leavitt senior crossed the finish line at the Class A state skiing championships at Black Mountain following her freestyle nordic race, caught her breath, hugged her teammates — and started to cry.

Four years of ski racing for her school began with a state nordic title after Knowlton was pressed into service as an alternate her freshman year. Fitting then, that her career at Leavitt will end the same way.

Knowlton finished strong Thursday, posting a second top 10 in as many days to help lead the Hornets to a win in the freestyle event, and a resounding victory in the nordic combined championship.

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“Our biggest focus today was to stay hungry,” Knowlton said. “We didn’t want to feel too confident, because you never know what’s going to happen out there. We wanted to win this thing, so we needed to give it our all.”

Leavitt posted 24 points Wednesday and followed that with a 38-point performance Thursday. The Hornets’ total of 62 points was better than Portland by 60 points over two events.

“Today was about, I told them to forget about (Wednesday),” Leavitt coach Dustin Williamson said. “It was a new day. We needed to ski strong again.”

Maddie Wiegman again led the way for Leavitt on Thursday with a fourth-place finish, a day after capturing the classical crown. Senior Taren McGray crossed in eighth, and Knowlton in ninth.

“Our team, we’re all really close, we’re always sharing tips for warming up, cooling down, rehydrating,” Knowlton said. “At practice we’re always trying to build off each other. It’s never focused on beating each other, but more like trying to help each other get better.”

Abby Chase rounded out the Leavitt scoring contingent in 17th position.

Portland snuck into second place in the nordic race, posting 53 points Thursday, down from 69 the previous day. The Bulldogs edged Mt. Blue by four points for second position.

Mt. Blue posted 60 points Thursday for a two-day total of 126.

The race for the overall title is still very much in doubt, too. Oxford Hills has hung tough with Mt. Blue for the girls’ overall crown in each discipline. The Cougars still lead the Vikings by 25 with the slalom remaining Friday. Falmouth is also close behind with 210, five back of the Vikings.

Alyssa Andrews led the Oxford Hills contingent with a fifth-place finish Thursday.

“I think we had a better mindset today overall,” Andrews said. “Today we really felt like we needed to work at this.”

Skiers dealt all afternoon with less-than-ideal skating conditions as the warm temperatures and peeks of sun turned many of the more-traveled turns into slush.

“It was fast on the longer downhills, but not on the corners,” Andrews said.

In the boys’ race, Falmouth overcame a two-point deficit to Mt. Blue in resounding fashion, posting a total score of 27 to the Cougars’ 42, giving the Yachtsmen a 69-82 victory in the nordic combined championship.

“They brought their ‘A’ game. They skied to their potential today,” Falmouth coach Jeff Walker said. “They’ve done well in classic this year. At Sassi, they did well against these teams. Maybe we missed a bit of the wax yesterday, maybe their game was a little off yesterday, but today, they really brought it.”

Jay Lesser, Jamie McAtherin and Tim Follo finished 2-3-4 for Falmouth behind Fryeburg’s Silas Eastman, and the Yachtsmen’s Sam Pratico added an 18-place finish to round out their scoring.

The win for Falmouth further validated the school’s decision to petition up to Class A this season coming off of a pair of Class B state titles. Having raced at the Sassi and Leavitt Invitational races at Black Mountain earlier this season had given the squad a pretty good idea where they stood, at least in the classical discipline.

“That was very important, but today was the big black box because we had no clue how we skated against other teams. We knew how we matched up in the classic, but not skating,” said Walker.

“The guys talked to some of the Falmouth boys, and they all said they were better classic skaters,” Mt. Blue coach David Nordstrom said. “We never knew what they would be like. This is the first time we really see them in that kind of race. We found out what we have to work on for next year.”

The Oxford Hills boys took third in the nordic competition, with Fryeburg and Portland rounding out the top five.

“We had five of our guys finish in the top 15,” Nordstrom said. “That’s just really amazing. They came in fired up because they really wanted to stay ahead of Falmouth. But (Falmouth) is an excellent skating team.”

Class A alpine

Lucas Bonnevie wasn’t nervous.

Determined, perhaps, but not nervous.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘I have to go all out,'” Bonnevie said.

After the first run of the Class A giant slalom at Black Mountain on Thursday, Bonnevie saw for the first time this season someone close enough in his rear view mirror to cause him concern. Falmouth’s Alex Gowen was a mere tenth of the second off of Bonnevie’s leading pace.

“I also had to stand up, for the team, so I was playing the two in my head,” Bonnevie said. “I tried to get the best balance I could.”

There was no question after the second run, though. Gowen stuttered just enough around one of the bottom gates, and Bonnevie turned it up a notch. His combined time of 1:23.50 was 1.41 seconds better than Gowen as Bonnevie captured the Class A giant slalom title.

“After the first run, I came down (to the scoreboard). I knew he’d gotten a similar time,” Bonnevie said. “I was like, ‘OK, I have to beat that run.’ I put that in my head.”

“I’m really proud of Lucas,” Mt. Blue coach Mark Cyr said. “He went out on the first run, and he wasn’t the only one, and that snow was soft. That doesn’t help a skier like Lucas. He managed to get through it, and that second run, he just ripped. If there’s somebody on his tail, he’s going to drop the hammer on that second run.”

Gowen’s finish led a strong Falmouth charge, though, and put the Yachtsmen in perfect position not only to claim the Class A alpine title, but also the overall championship. Joseph Lesniak (fourth), Luke Andrews (ninth) and Austin Couch (15th) were the top four for the Yachtsmen, who are coming off a pair of Class B state titles and are skiing in Class A for the first time. The Yachtsmen have 30 points through the slalom.

In the alpine championship, Mt. Blue (51) and Edward Little (76) stand in second and third. The Cougars had the first-place finish from Bonnevie, as well as Noth Kay at 12 and Anthony Franchetti at 14, along with Alex Chandler at No. 24. Particularly important for Cyr’s group Thursday was Franchetti’s finish.

“What a day he had,” Cyr said. “He’s been struggling all year to finish two runs, and so for him to put that together today, that was great.”

Greely is in firm control of the girls’ alpine competition. The Rangers, led by Elyse Dinan in third position and Teal Otley in sixth, posted 40 points, good for a 14-point advantage over Mt. Blue.

“This is a very talented team,” Greely coach Mark Ouellette said. “We’ve had double-bobbles and been OK.

The Rangers’ strength is in numbers. If any of the team’s skiers fall, there is likely to be another of equal ability right there to score for the team. It’s a luxury that helped them win the alpine crown a year ago at Big Rock, and one that has them in position to repeat at Black Mountain.

“It’s common for us to have four in the top 10, but with this deeper field, this was a good day,” Ouellette said.

“Greely’s just so tough,” Cyr said. “I watched every one of their skiers come down, and they’re all just a little bit quicker than all of our girls.”

Heather Farrington led the Cougars with a fourth-place finish, while Mallory Parker finished in eighth.

“We don’t see (Greely) during the season, so it’s tough to know what they’re bringing,” Cyr said.

But with slalom on the horizon, the old “anything can happen” mantra holds true.

“We always look forward to slalom because we’re a better slalom team than a GS team,” Cyr said. “Always have been.”

Oxford Hills is right on the Cougars’ heels in the alpine race, too. The Vikings posted four skiers from 10th through 22nd.

“Greely was definitely the team to beat, but we skied well,” Oxford Hills coach Mike Grace said. “We had one hiccup, where one of the skiers should have skied out for a rerun, but still, our sixth skier (Miranda Murphy) really came through. She’s come a long way. And I’m very pleased.”

Colleen Stauder (10th) and Victoria Ebsworth (11th) led the charge for Oxford Hills, which is also right on Mt. Blue’s heels for the Class A overall crown.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape. We just have to stand up,” Grace said. “The slalom is the great equalizer.”

Edward Little’s girls had a rough day. Phoebe Chamberlin placed fifth, but No. 2 skier Allarie Lever and No. 3 Heather Johnston fell and did not finish their first runs.

“After those couple of falls, it was just a focus on the individual finishes,” EL coach Tara Eretzian said, “and we got some good finishes there.”

Class B roundup

Yarmouth was just too strong.

The Clippers’ boys’ and girls’ ski teams marched off with the Class B State Skiing Championships at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle on Thursday after earning big victories on the final day of competition at the nordic classic event.

The Yarmouth boys posted a combined nordic score of 30 points, 28 better than Caribou. In the overall standings, the Yarmouth boys were 88 points better than Maranacook. The Black Bears were better in alpine and won that combined title, but Yarmouth’s dominance on the trails proved too much to overcome.

The Clippers’ girls’ squad was equally dominant, posting a 123-251 overall victory over Caribou, with Camden Hills and Mt. Abram rounding out the top five.

In the nordic events, Maranacook slid into third position behind Caribou.

Individually, Abby Mace won her second state title of the week with a win in the skate race, timing in 33 seconds faster than Tara Humphries of Yarmouth. Sadie James of Mt. Abram, who missed the freestyle race, placed fourth for the Roadrunners on Thursday.

In the boys’ race, Trent Rosenberg, also of Mt. Abram, was the top tri-county finisher in fifth place. Carson Mitchell of Maranacook placed 11th to lead his squad.

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