Parker Tinkham of the Maranacook Nordic Ski Team received a snowflake award for competing in her first high school Nordic race. Head coach Steve DeAngelis hands the awards out after each athlete competes in the first race. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

READFIELD — As the rain poured outside, melting away the snow that had been groomed for the Maranacook Nordic ski team, the defending state champion Black Bears were practicing inside the high school’s music room.

Skiing wasn’t on the agenda for Maranacook on Friday, however. Two days after their first win of the season, the boys’ and girls’ teams were performing power yoga.

Power yoga is just one of the many things head coach Steve DeAngelis implements in his practices to keep the team loose.

“We have, what I think, is a really cool culture on the team,” DeAngelis said. “We have a crazy amount of fun. They laugh with each other, they giggle all the time, they sing non-stop on the bus rides, and they claim they have the best dance moves of any team in the state. Because they have fun, they’re willing to work hard.”

After Maranacook’s girls’ team finished second at states and the boys’ team third in 2016, both teams swept the Class B state meet in 2017 in large part because of the way they approach every day.


“There’s a tremendous culture of a couple of things,” DeAngelis said. “Having fun while we’re working, but also the older kids on the team help take care of the younger ones and help the younger ones.”

Power yoga is just one of the things the Black Bears do to keep the atmosphere a fun one. Another is an overnight sleepover on the first night of the season at the high school.

“We play crazy games, team-building things, a lot of relays until, like, 2 a.m.,” DeAngelis said. “We call it the sleepover practice, but there isn’t much sleep happening, and sometimes there’s none.”

The sleepover is a great way to build team chemistry, as well as meet the ever-growing team.

“At the sleepover, Mr. D makes us be with two people you don’t know so you get to know everyone really well,” Laura Parent said.

Parent won the state championship in the classic race and earned a runner-up finish in the skate race last year. The team captain’s success is attributed in part because of her eagerness to come to practice everyday.


In addition to the opening-night sleepover, the Black Bears also compete in the “Stupid Olympics,” a season-long competition that includes the entire team in different relays and games. Just another way DeAngelis brings his team closer together.

“I wrote a lot of my college essays on the team and how inclusive it is and the community of acceptance that we have,” Parent said. “There is a lot of team bonding even outside of practice. After practice ends at 4:30, sometimes I won’t get home until after five. We all love spending time with each other.”

At Friday’s practice, DeAngelis continued a yearly tradition of handing out handmade paper snowflakes. The snowflakes are given to each skier who had skied their first career race, with their name, date of race, time and location of their first Nordic excursion. DeAngelis told the team of a former skier, David Griffin, who years later had his snowflake pinned to his wall at his apartment in Boston.

The snowflakes are symbolic of the culture of inclusion that DeAngelis has curated over the years for all levels of skiers on his team.

Parent and Maddison Taylor, co-captains on the girls’ team, learned early on that Maranacook’s Nordic ski team accepted everyone.

“Maddy and I work really well as the co-captains,” Parent said. “We were captains for the cross country team, also, and we are best friends. I think I take on more of a support role for the team, more encouraging. Just kind of letting people in the right direction and help people know what they’re doing. When I was a freshman I really looked up to the older kids and I was like, ‘wow.'”


Taylor understands her role on the team, and embraces it.

“We keep the girls’ team motivated but it is not hard to do because they are a super motivated bunch,” Taylor said. “I know it’s the highlight of my day. As much as we love this game, we also love spending time with each other.”

Freshman Evelyn St. Germain used to played basketball in middle school, but after not enjoying it, she figured she would give cross-country skiing a try. She wasn’t disappointed.

“I think I’m going to stick with it for a very long time,” St. Germain said. “They’ve been great team captains. When I feel like I’m down and I can’t do it they’ll definitely push me to the highest.”

On the snow, senior captain Mark McLaughlin is looking to finish where he left off last year — two top-ten finishes at the state championships.

“I’d like to win several races, hopefully states as well,” McLaughlin said. “We are going for the state title again. Our mindset is to assume we haven’t won anything yet, we still have to work hard for it.”


As for Parent and Taylor, they’ve been working all offseason for this season.

“There is competition, but it’s almost universally healthy competition,” DeAngelis said. “What we try to do is get the kids to ski one level up from where they’re comfortable. We know we need to develop a four-five-six for states and at this past meet (the boys’ team) placed one through four.”

However this season ends on the snow, one thing’s for sure: Someone will win the Stupid Olympics.

“We give awards at the end of the year and kids are sometimes more excited about who will win the Stupid Olympics than winning state championships,” DeAngelis said. “It’s a very intense competition to be Stupid Olympic champion.”

Senior captain Connor Firth, left , works on a power yoga exercise with the Maranacook Nordic Ski Team on Friday. Because of fog and rain, Friday was the first day that the Black Bears were not on snow this season. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Hajna Nagy, right, and senior captain Mark McLaughlin work on a power yoga exercise with the Maranacook Nordic Ski Team on Friday. Athletes such as Emily Gerencer, far left, of St. Dominic Academy and Maya Deming, third from left, of Winthrop High School, also train with the Maranacook team. Because of fog and rain, Friday was the first day that the Black Bears were not on snow this season. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Hajna Nagy, left, and senior captain Laura Parent work on a power yoga exercise with the Maranacook Nordic Ski Team on Friday. Because of fog and rain, Friday was the first day that the Black Bears were not on snow this season. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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