CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Pam Spear looked at the skier on the course, still closer to the starting gate than the finish line, but making her way down the course to the finish. Once she knew it was her daughter, Ella, Pam turned her back to the course for a second to compose herself.

“I get nervous,” she said.

Ella Spear was not nervous, however. A senior at Carrabassett Valley Academy, Spear is taking part in her first national speed racing championship this week at Sugarloaf. Her goals for the U.S. Alpine championships are modest.

Carrabassett Valley Academy senior Ella Spear skis during the second of her two training runs at Sugarloaf on Monday in advance of the US Alpine championships. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

“Have fun, make it downhill safely, and try to go as fast as possible. For downhill, I’ve never done it before. I just really want to see what it’s all about and get down the hill,” Spear said after the second of her two downhill practice runs. Spear, 17, will compete in her first official downhill race Tuesday afternoon.

Spear completed her first practice downhill run Monday morning with a time of 1:18.91, good for 23rd in a field of 30 racers. Her second run was slightly faster, 1:18.11, good for 27th.

“I felt pretty good. I feel like I could let it go a little more,” said Spear, a Boothbay native. “Hopefully after today, I’ll feel comfortable to let it go (Tuesday).”

Spear has been racing for just over a decade. When she was 6, Spear’s father, Lester, talked her into entering a race at Lost Valley in Auburn.

“That gave her the bug, and she’s been racing ever since,” Pam Spear said. “What she sets her mind to, she stays focused on it and works hard at it.”

Ella said there was incentive to race that went beyond winning.

“I think I followed him down the course. I think I was the only one competing, so I won. That got me. I get free pizza every time I race? That sounds good,” she said.

Over the years, pizza was replaced as a motivator by adrenaline.

“I love going fast and sometimes feeling like I’m not going to make it,” Spear said. “Even in slalom, when I’m not necessarily going fast, I’ll be like ‘Oh, I almost missed that gate. I’ve gotta get going.’ The feeling of knowing you completed a good run, knowing you at least did what you want to do, that’s what keeps me going.”

This winter, Spear competed in a mix of NorAm, Eastern Cup and collegiate races, with four top-10 finishes heading into this week’s national championships. A couple weeks ago, Spear earned a sixth-place finish in a Super G race at Sugarloaf, and a fifth in giant slalom the next day. The NorAm Cup tour is organized by the International Ski Federation pits skiers across the globe against each other.

“I’ve had some pretty good finishes. I went to a lot of college races this year, try to get into the groove of that,” Spear said.

Spear will continue her ski racing career at Colby College next year. Competing against college racers this season gave Spear a clear picture of what lies ahead. With Colby, Spear will continue to train often at Sugarloaf.

“There’s a lot of fast people out there. I think I really learned how cool it would be to be on a team like that. All those girls, and the guys, they work together. They help each other. It’s a really cool team environment I’m looking forward to in college,” Spear said. “I’m really excited. I’ve skied (at Sugarloaf) my entire life, and can’t think of anything better than to do another four years. I love this hill.”

Qualifying for nationals was a goal Spear set at the stating of the season. Racing this week is another chance for Spear to learn and ski clean runs against the best skiers in the country.

“For Super G, I want to try and score some NorAm points, and that means top 30, eight percent away from the leader. I think that’s pretty attainable. I’ve skied this hill a good amount,” she said.

For Pam, it’s a chance to try to calm her nerves and watch her daughter compete on the big stage.

“For me, it’s a chance for her to see what other people have going on for them and  the competition is out there. Some growth for herself, and life experience,” Pam said. “I can’t say I’m surprised, because it’s something she’s been working hard at and is so focused at.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


Comments are not available on this story.