What amounted to a two-team race in 2009 has turned into a much more crowded field in 2010 at the Class A state skiing championships.
Mt. Blue, the high school skiing juggernaut that has claimed nine of the last 10 boys' overall titles and an astounding 16 of the last 18 on the girls' side, will again wear the mantle as the favorite, but in both the Nordic and Alpine disciplines, the Cougars are going to have some company.
Kelton Cullenberg, Brody Hines and Richie Brooks lead the Cougars' Nordic squad and all three placed in the top 10 at the KVAC championship meet two weeks ago. Mt. Blue's ability to challenge for the title will depend on a group of three skiers — Jonah Jones, Nick Wilkins and Zach Veayo — and their ability to shave some time off of their classical runs at KVACs.
Hot on Mt. Blue's heels, as always, is Leavitt. The Hornets finished exactly one point better than Mt. Blue in the giant slalom, one point better in the freestyle Nordic ski, and eight points better in the classical style competition, but a pair of skiers fell during the slalom and Mt. Blue cruised to the overall KVAC win.
"It's going to take some great skiing, and some smart skiing this week," Leavitt Nordic coach Dustin Williamson said. "It's time to put everything we've been working on all year into this one week. Mt. Blue is a great team, and they make us better as a team, and I'd like to think we do the same with them."
Not to be overlooked in the downhill competition is Edward Little. The Eddies' boys' squad is the two-time defending state champion in the alpine combined, and while accumulating just 30 points each in winning the KVAC slalom and giant slalom, they served notice of their intention of defending the title for a third time.
Speaking of the Eddies, with a dramatic improvement from last year to this in the alpine events and the emergence of a steady Nordic team, not only will the Auburn school be competing for a plaque in the downhill disciplines, but on the Nordic side as well, and for a spot on the podium in the overall competition.
At the KVAC races, the Eddies' girls finished just eight points back of Mt. Blue in the giant slalom, 10 back in the slalom, and came in second to the Cougars on the trails by just 35 points, edging out the Hornets.
"It's great to see that program get back to where it is," Williamson said of EL's squad. "It just adds to the excitement."
Mt. Blue's girls squad, though, remains the title favorite, with dominance in both disciplines.
Individually, Emily Blackwood of Edward Little is one of the favorites to bring home a girls' alpine title, while Mt. Blue's Kelton Cullenberg will be the Cougars' best shot on the trails. James Jackson leads the Eddies' boys' alpine team, Hannah Allen carried the Mt. Blue torch on the trails, and Allison Fereshetian has been arguably the Hornets' top skier on the trails this season.
Brody Youland is the top alpine skier to watch for the Hornets.
From the SMAA, the Kennebunk girls appear to be on a mission after blazing through the field at most of the conference's meets, placing four skiers routinely in the top 12 in both the GS and slalom. The Windham boys are back for more as well, after just missing out in 2008.
Yarmouth will be the WMC's torch-bearer in the Class B competition after sweeping the alpine and Nordic events at the Western Maine Conference competition, but Maranacook of the KVAC and Telstar and Mt. Abram of the MVC will have something to say when it comes to individual disciplines.
The Black Bears were strong as a Class B school among all of the Class A competition they faced at the conference meet, and should stack up well against the Clippers.
The Mt. Abram girls and Mountain Valley boys took top honors at the MVC championships among Class B schools.
Sadie James has been outstanding for the Roadrunners this season, and easily won the freestyle and classical races at the MVC championships by more than a minute. The 'Runners are deep with talent and will make some noise in the battle for the Class B Nordic title.
Freeport held its own as a Class C school in the Class B-heavy Western Maine Conference this season, and will again be one of the favorites for an overall Class C title.
Winthrop's boys' and girls' Nordic squads were the top Class C programs at the MVC championships, and with Fort Kent in Class C for the third year in a row, the competition for the top spot will be tight.