FARMINGTON — Simply put, Emma Charles made a strong first impression.

The Mt. Blue freshman dominated during the 2018-2019 ski season, sweeping the classical, freestyle and pursuit titles at both the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Class A state championships.

For her efforts throughout the season, Charles is the Morning Sentinel Girls Nordic Skier of the Year.

Championships were not originally on Charles’ mind when the season began.

“I didn’t have any high expectations,” Charles said. “In the beginning (of the season), we wrote down goals that we wanted to accomplish. I was hoping for top 10 (finishes), at best. I was definitely surprised that I was doing so well so early on.”

Charles beat her original goals and beat them early. She finished fifth overall at the Maranacook Waves on Jan. 19, about 40 seconds behind winner Jenny Wilbraham. That early success helped build Charles’ confidence.

“In the first race (of the season), I just kind of thought, most of the teams haven’t even skied yet. We had no dry land training, I just thought we had that advantage. Probably a couple of races in I thought ‘Yeah, maybe I’ll be able to do better than top 10.’”

Charles would have no idea how right she was.

Emma Charles of Mt. Blue is the 2019 Morning Sentinel Girls Nordic Skier of the Year. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

At the KVACs on Feb. 9 on her home course at Titcomb Mountain, not only did Charles sweep the championships, but cruised in every event. She won the classical with a 1:19 advantage. She was even more dominant in the freestyle, finishing with a time of 14:46.70, which was 2:03 faster than the next KVAC finisher.

That dominance only continued into the Class A meet a week later at Stark’s Hill in Fryeburg. Charles finished the classical in 17:25.8, which was 1:13 faster than second-place finisher Emily Gerencer of St. Dominic. It was a closer battle with Gerencer in the freestyle, where Charles finished first with a time of 15:13.4, 29 seconds faster than Gerencer.

Overall, Charles finished with a top pursuit time of 32:39.4, taking that title by nearly two minutes.

“The first race, I wasn’t too nervous, because (the course) was no bigger than the (Sassi Memorial Classic),” Charles said. “The (freestyle) I was really nervous, because there’s some really big hills that are really hard for classic but are so much easier for skate. I wasn’t really focusing on place (in the standings), I was worried more about maneuvering through the course.”

Mt. Blue coach Claire Polfus has been impressed with Charles’ focus during races this season.

“She has a really great (athletic) mindset about races, and about giving it her all without really getting too nervous,” Polfus said. “She was nervous at states, it was a big deal as a freshman to go in with high expectations. But she’s really good at focusing on what’s in front of her and performing well in that, whether it’s the next 10 feet of the trail or the next race.”

Polfus added that, despite her success, Charles continued to get better and focus on aspects of her game.

“She’s really actually come a long way as a skier,” Polfus said. “Even though she’s been strong all season, she’s made some really great improvements in her technique. The really cool thing with Emma is you can see how she’s trying to incorporate the things you’re working on (with her) in her skiing.”

Charles started skiing at an early age, and the sport is in the family blood. Her sister, Meghan, was a standout at Mt. Blue (and multi-time Morning Sentinel Girls Nordic Skier of the Year), and helped inspire Emma to chase the same path at the age of 9, while Meghan was a skier in the middle school program.

“I’ve been skiing since probably around 5 (years of age),” Charles said. “I (originally) hated it… (Meg) was kind of my inspiration to do it, because I definitely would not have done it if it weren’t for her. She was a really big inspiration for me. I would try to chase her at practices. I was a really competitive 9-year old going against my 13-year old sister, who had been doing it for many more years. She really pushed me a lot.”

Accolades aside, Charles is already looking forward to — and making goals — for the future.

“One of my goals is to try to make it to junior nationals, or at least get close to it, by my senior year,” Charles said. “I’m not sure if that will happen, but it’s certainly something in the back of my mind. I also want to do more strength training over the summer and before ski season (next year), so I can have a solid foundation before the actual season starts.”

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