One era in Maine skiing ends and another will begin at this year’s Maine Principals’ Association Nordic ski championships.
Mountain Valley High School hosts the Class C event, to be contested Wednesday and Thursday at Black Mountain of Maine.
It’s a bittersweet occasion, as Falcons coach Ray Broomhall — whose family name has been synonymous with winter sports in the region during his 50-plus years as an instructor — is retiring after the competition.
“I’ll be 79 on March 1. It’s time to call it quits,” Broomhall said. “Hopefully they can find someone younger. It takes a lot of time preparing skis and waxing them.”
In another rare twist to the Nordic showcase, all three enrollment classifications will hold their events in the tri-county region.
Class A also runs Wednesday and Thursday at Rangeley Lakes Trails Center, with Class B beginning Thursday and concluding Friday at Sugarloaf Outdoor Center in Carrabassett Valley.
And the biggest change of all is that the cross country races will stand alone.
The MPA adjusted the skiing championship schedule this season so that Nordic is held during school vacation week, with Alpine competing the following week. In the past, the events had run concurrently.
Broomhall’s farewell will be a family affair. His daughter, Lynn Gould, has been an assistant to the Mountain Valley squad. Her daughter and Ray’s granddaughter, Kristin Gould, joined the team as a sophomore in 2012 on the condition that he would coach.
“It was a lot of fun,” Kristin Gould said. “It gave us time together and made us closer than we already were. I have learned a lot about skiing and our family’s history in the sport from him.”
Ray was one of 15 children in the prominent ski family that has produced four Maine Ski Hall of Fame members — Charles, Wendall (known universally as “Chummy”), Erlon and Ray.
The family has been the lifeblood of the Chisholm Ski Club, which has hosted everything from youth events to NCAA finals and U.S. national championships at Black.
“I’m not giving up altogether,” Broomhall said. “I’ll still help out. The mountain is run by volunteers, and we couldn’t do it without them. But these people aren’t spring chickens. Most are 75 and older.”
Those comments capture Broomhall’s wry sense of humor and his generous spirit.
“There aren’t too many people in town that don’t know Dad and the hard-working person that he is,” Lynn Gould said. “He is a very humble man and would give you the shirt off his back without giving it a second thought. His passion for coaching and working with kids is something that he takes deep to heart. Though he would never admit it, he gets just as much out of being with the team as they get from him.”
Mountain Valley and the rest of the Class C field will be chasing Merriconeag-Waldorf, the prep school located at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. Both its girls ‘ and boys’ teams won the overall team title a year ago.
The Dirigo girls and Winthrop boys were best among the local contingent a year ago, each finishing fifth. But a team on the likely rise this year is Monmouth. Led by Becki Bryant, the Mustangs’ pack of five — also featuring Jordyn Mann, Shannon Buzzell, Carey Knowles and Hannah Kerrigan — could sneak into contention.
Bryant and double MVC champion Izzy Gerencer of St. Dom’s are local skiers to watch on the individual front.
The schedule at each site features the classical race on Day 1 and the freestyle skate on Day 2. Opening day races are at 1:30 and 3 p.m., with the championship day events starting at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Leavitt and Mt. Blue will be teams to watch in both the Class A boys’ and girls’ competitions.
Reigning girls’ freestyle champion Sarah Wade leads the Cougars, who are much deeper this season than when they finished fifth a year ago. Julia Ramsey has been right in Wade’s tracks throughout the winter, and Leah Hardy, Anja Nordstrom and Miriam Cohen complete a tough quintet.
Dustin Staples and Ike Doiron are the top contenders for the Mt. Blue boys.
The Varneys, Mackenzie and Brooke, lead the Leavitt girls. Harrison Knowlton and Rylee Knox direct the boys. Each team was third in 2013.
Falmouth is defending champion in both boys’ and girls’ Class A.
Yarmouth holds that distinction in Class B, but as always, Maranacook will be a threat to take away the crown.
Among B individuals, Kaelyn Woods of Gray-New Gloucester was girls’ champion at the Sassi Memorial in January. Reilly Romanoski is the top performer for the Mt. Abram girls, while Thomas Faraday (2013 runner-up in classical) leads the Roadrunners in the boys’ field.