FARMINGTON — After a regular season filled with fast, icy racing, Mother Nature threw competitors a powdery curve ball for Saturday’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Mountain Valley Conference Nordic classical championships at Titcomb Mountain.

Even though his skis were the first to touch the five-kilometer course on the first day of the KVAC championships, Mt. Blue senior Tucker Barber saw the freshly-fallen snow as an advantage. He made the most of the conditions and won the boys’ race by 24 seconds, then took a little extra satisfaction in a job very well done.

“You had to work for it because no one was in front of you to pack it down,” he said. “You’ve really got to push for it.”

Maranacook’s Laura Parent won the KVAC girls’ race in even more dominant fashion. Telstar, meanwhile, swept the MVC races, as Gaelan Boyle-Wight and Marta Opie won the boys’ and girls’ titles, respectively.

Barber, who won the prestigious Sassi Memorial two weeks ago and is also a state champion cross country runner, was excited to see the light snowfall continuing on his home course as the mid-afternoon start time for the race approached.

“A lot of the year we were having icy conditions and now we have the exact opposite of that,” said Barber, who was runner-up in last year’s race, then went on to win the Class A state championship. “I, actually, would tend to like to race when it’s like this over a race where it’s just glare ice because you get to put more effort in and it’s less of a hit-or-miss thing.”

Nevertheless, Barber said he didn’t feel comfortable with his lead until a little more than halfway through the course

“You had to make sure not to wear yourself out too much because it made you tired faster. And you had to know that the people behind you, it wasn’t making them as tired,” he said. “Skiing in slower conditions is always hard to gauge when you’re out there.”

Barber crossed the finish at 19:54.6. Zach Holman of Maranacook (20:18.5) was second. Cameron Bancroft of Oxford Hills, Luke Barstol of Maranacook and Mt. Blue’s Sam Stinson rounded out the top five.

Parent gave herself even more breathing room in the girls’ race. Her time of 24:32.1 was 45 seconds better than runner-up Julia Ramsey of Mt. Blue.

Ramsey, who like Barber was coming off of winning the Sassi, said she prefers faster courses and battled pre-race nerves so severe she threw up her breakfast Saturday morning.

“Considering that, I’m very pleased with how I did,” she said. “It happened last week, too, so I’m thinking it’s a nerves thing. Hopefully, it’s the last time.”

“It was interesting,” she added. “Going into the race I didn’t want to lead the whole race, which in other races that wouldn’t be as much of a problem. But the tracks definitely start to fill up with the fresh snow, so I was hoping to ski behind someone to use their tracks.”

Maranacook’s Abby Despres, Mt. Blue’s Meg Charles and Jenny Wilbraham of Morse rounded out the top five.

In the MVC boys’ race, Boyle-Wight, a junior, waited for the right moment to make his move, then held off defending champion Xavier Romanowski to finish in 22:44.7 and win by 15 seconds.

“I wanted to stay with the front pack and move up when the time was right,” Boyle-Wight said. “I’m not really sure where (he made the move), but it was just sort of when it felt right. It was on the hills probably. I’m strong on the hills. I go slower on the downhills because I’m not as heavy but I knew if I got them on the uphills I could stay ahead.”

Mt. Abram’s Harry Walters and Brandon Hemingway followed their teammate for third and fourth place, respectively, while Telstar’s Kellen True edged Boothbay’s Blake Erhard by .6 of a second for fifth.

Opie turned in the most dominant performance of the day, winning the MVC girls’ race by 1:08 with a time of 29:24.0. Mt. Abram’s Risa Marble was second, followed by Monmouth’s Bea Stewart, Alice Cockerham of Mt. Abram and Nicole Whitman of Dirigo.

Mt. Abram’s boys and girls posted the best team scores in the MVC, with the girls tying Monmouth for first. They lead Telstar by 10 points on the girls’ side while Mt. Abram’s boys lead Telstar by seven points heading into the freestyle race scheduled for Tuesday at Black Mountain.

In the KVAC, Maranacook and Mt. Blue will enter Day 2 at Black Mountain in a dead heat for first place in both the boys’ and girls’ team standings, with Leavitt a distant second on the girls’ side and with Oxford Hills trailing the boys’ front-runners by 23 points. 

 

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