NORWAY — Julia Dillon won the Oxford Hills Viking Classic on her home course Wednesday at Roberts Farm, but the most grueling part of the race was run Tuesday.

That’s when Dillon and her Oxford Hills teammates got out of class in the afternoon, made the short journey through town, arrived at the trail and were instructed to grab work gloves and shovels instead of poles and skis.

The Vikings spent another two hours picking up whatever excess snow was left in banks and dropping it in the middle of the trail, an arduous task coach Chris Easton had performed on his own since morning. Sunday’s torrential rain and Monday’s near-50 degree temperatures took their toll on what had been a well-groomed, race-ready course since Thanksgiving.

“I’m glad we finally got it together. It was looking not-so-great,” Dillon said. “There were huge spots out there. It looks really good today, but yesterday it didn’t look anything like that.”

Oxford Hills swept the team and individual titles in a midweek meet that also featured Telstar, Dirigo and Monmouth.

Nate McNutt won the boys’ race with a time of 12:51. Dillon dominated the girls’ portion in 14:42.


In the team competition, Oxford Hills outdistanced Telstar by seven points in the boys’ competition and topped Monmouth by a dozen in the girls’ sweepstakes.

“Monmouth doesn’t have any snow. Telstar’s having a hard time. For whatever reason, we could have skied without all the work we did, but for a race, you had to do that,” Easton said “Somebody said, ‘Why are you holding the race when you’ve got another race on Saturday?’ A lot of these kids aren’t skiing (at home), so it gives them an opportunity to ski.”

McNutt, a sophomore, had never won a high school Nordic race.

“I don’t usually go that fast. This course is really good for ski races,” McNutt said. “I only got ahead about halfway up the hill. Everybody was packed in tight. It’s not the easiest thing to do.”

Holding them off was no breeze, either.

Kellen True of Telstar, Keenan Martin of Dirigo and Ben Andrews of Oxford Hills jockeyed for position only a few yards over McNutt’s shoulder throughout the race.


True, who skis both Nordic and alpine but considers cross-country his specialty, crossed the line in 13:03 and held off Martin by one second. Martin was the same distance ahead of Andrews for third.

“I was out in the lead in the beginning, but we were under the strategy to follow someone and gain off their lead to keep up with them, and then in the end try to go around them,” True said. “I made my moves down the hills. That’s why I do alpine.”

McNutt and Andrews have been friendly rivals as the Vikings’ one-two punch the past two seasons. After averaging about a minute off McNutt’s pace, Andrews earned bragging rights by a three-second margin in Oxford Hills’ precious race.

That gave Andrews confidence that he could do it again. A short, tight course layout that required the lead skiers to pass other competitors got the better of him, however.

“I was passing a bunch of people, but when you tell them to move over they take two-thirds of the trail,” Andrews said. “That’s what people do. I do the same thing. It can’t be helped. I fell over trying to go up the hill, because my ski went off the side.”

Liam Gallagher of Telstar rounded out the top five in the boys’ race. Logan Hallee (eighth) and Cam Bancroft (ninth) were Oxford Hills’ additional scorers.


Dillon and Mary Bryce went one-two for the Vikings in the girls’ race, with Dillon 52 seconds in front.

“I haven’t won any other ones, but I’ve come in top 10 in all of them. Last year I was coming in the mid-20s to the 30s,” Dillon said. “I’m a senior and a captain, so leading all these kids has helped me. I come out and work with them and it makes me work harder, making sure that they see how I ski so they work hard too.”

She took the lead in the double-pole dash through the icy mass start and never relinquished it. Dillon attacked the uphill portions of the course, she said, in case she lost time due to a stumble on the treacherous descents.

Easton said that he saw Dillon’s potential as a freshman and was waiting for such a breakout season.

“I’ve had a number of kids over the years, you see them on skis, you go, ‘That kid could be really good.’ She was one of those kids, and she finally got it up here,” the coach said, pointing to his head. “I can tell her she’s good, somebody else can tell her she’s good, but until she tells herself she’s good, there’s not much you can do.”

Gabrielle Stone of Telstar was third, followed by Shannon Buzzell of Monmouth and Oxford Hills’ Natasha Blake.


Mae Gosnell clinched the win for the Vikings by finishing 10th.

“After the boys went over it, it got icier, so you had to make sure you were really light on your feet,” Dillon said. “It makes it extremely fast, but it makes it dangerous.”

Dangerous being way better than idle, in any skier’s mind.

“I shoveled most of the day yesterday, and then the kids came over for practice, and that’s what we did. We shoveled,” Easton said. “We filled it all in, and then the guys that groom here did a really good job.”

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