GREENWOOD — The Oxford Hills alpine skiing team had a little extra edge when it began preparations for the Class A state championships last week.

Mother Nature’s stinginess made giant slalom training on its Mount Abram home course impossible for much of January. Getting back on the hill that will host this week’s championship meet was exactly what Vikings coach Mike Grace needed to get his team focused for its biggest races of the year.

The Vikings are riding high into states, the alpine portion of which begins Tuesday. The alpine team won the slalom and finished second overall to Edward Little at the KVAC championships last week and combined with the Nordic team to win the first overall conference title that Grace can recall in his 14 years at Oxford Hills.

Oxford Hills expects to battle EL, Greely and Falmouth for the Class A alpine crown. Combine a strong performance on the hill and another solid effort from the Nordic team, which finished third at KVACs, and the Vikings could make a run at their first overall state title since they won Class B in 1977.

“I think we’re very close,” senior co-captain Amanda Hanning said. “The Nordic team is very good.”

The alpine team can make the same claim. It boasts a talented top four with state experience and an aggressive approach to the slopes.

Colleen Stauder, another senior co-captain, sets the tone for the Vikings.

“Colleen is definitely the leader. Of the three senior captains, she’s been the one that takes charge,” Grace said. “She’s very intelligent. She works hard (and) listens.”

Stauder downplays her leadership role, but not the value of the Vikings’ chemistry.

“It’s so easy because everybody gets along. I don’t really see myself specifically as a leader. I think we all work together,” Stauder said.

Stauder was third in the slalom and fourth in giant slalom at KVACs. Sophomore Annika Kahkonen may be Oxford Hills’ most promising skier. She was fourth in the KVAC slalom and eighth in the GS.

Fellow sophomore Miranda Murphy has a knack for skiing her best in the big races. She placed 12th in the slalom and 18th in the GS.

“At the end of the season, she’s stepped up her game. She did the same thing last year,” Grace said of Murphy. “It seems towards the tail end of each season, she’s stepped up.”

Rounding out the quartet is Hanning, a steady presence who was eighth in the slalom and 16th in the GS.

“Amanda brings a lot of spirit to the team, and she’s a heck of a little skier. She’s very outgoing and friendly and likes to have fun,” Grace said.

Hanning, Stauder, Kahkonen and Murphy all skied at states last year, which is another advantage to go with the home snow.

“I think it’s a big factor,” Grace said. “There’s always nerves, but after you’ve done it once, there’s less. They know they’ve got to ski consistently and they can’t make major mistakes.”

“We all have to stand up. We have good first runs, we all have to stand up and have a clean second run,” Stauder said. “Our first four girls usually place pretty well, so if we’re all standing up, we’ll have a good chance.”

The Vikings are proficient at staying upright, Grace said. But they will have to stay on their toes mentally to compete in the giant slalom, which may be the key to winning alpine gold.

“It’s going to be a top-to-bottom giant slalom, so endurance is going to make a difference,” he said. “That’s a long way down, and they’ve got to stay focused the whole way.”

The Vikings are eager for the challenge.

“That will be so fun. I’m excited,” Stauder said. “We’re going to be so tired at the end.”

“We’ve just been telling everyone to ski as aggressive as possible,” Hanning said, “and to have fun with it, obviously.”

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