The New England Nordic Ski Association is hosting its Eastern Cup Opener in Maine this weekend, and this year it will have a new name.

The event will be called the Roy Varney Memorial Eastern Cup, in honor of former Leavitt Area High School Nordic skier Roy Varney, who died this past summer in a farming accident.

Leavitt’s Roy Varney powers up the first major hill of the Sassi Memorial 5K classical race at Black Mountain in Rumford in January. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Keh Buy this Photo

Varney was Maine’s Class A Nordic state champion last winter, and was the runner-up in 2018.

The Eastern Cup was scheduled to take place at Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, but warm temperatures and rain left Sugarloaf’s Nordic trails without snow, and while the resort’s Alpine trails are well-covered due to its snowmaking system, its Nordic trails don’t have the same capabilities. So, earlier this week, the Eastern Cup was moved to Quarry Road Trails in Waterville.

The Roy Varney Memorial Eastern Cup race is expected to bring 300-400 top skiers from throughout New England and Canada to Maine, including racers from colleges and private schools.

The races are Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.). Spectators are encouraged to watch the races, but trail access is restricted to athletes, coaches, volunteers and event organizers.

Leavitt Nordic coach Dustin Williamson said that the name change idea started a few months ago.

“We talked about doing something in Roy Varney’s name and it began as a conversation and then escalated from there,” Williamson said. “It’s an awesome way to pay tribute to him.”

The race will have awards on Sunday, including the top male and female skiers and honors from Nezinscot Farm, which is owned by Varney’s family, Boulder Nordic East in Portland, Leavitt Nordic stickers, according to Williamson.

There also is an anonymous donor who is matching all race fees from Maine skiers and will donate the sum to the Roy Varney Memorial Fund. Varney’s dream was to build a Nordic skiing and biathlon year-round training facility on his family’s farm in Turner, and his family, coaches, teammates and friends are working to make it a reality with the Maine Outdoor Wellness Center.

Some schools aren’t sending athletes to the event and instead are gearing up for the Telstar Relays at the start of the new year. Leavitt will have members of its team attending to show support and watch the races. Mt. Abram and University of Maine at Farmington coach Buzz Bean is attending on his own, mainly to do some recruiting for UMF.

Bean remembers Varney fondly and supports re-naming the race in his memory.

“Roy was a tremendous kid,” Bean said. “It will be a great event and he was a hard worker. … He was just into it and he never left anything behind. He raced every time and right to the wall. He was a great inspiration and great role model. No attitude, no cockiness. It was like, ‘Wow, this is what you want kids to be.’ You want them to work hard and be successful.”

Maranacook coach Steve DeAngelis said two of his athletes, Carter McPhedran and Cambelle Nutting, competing this weekend. DeAngelis says it’s hard to know what to expect at the race every year.

“There is very little time on snow (before the event),” DeAngelis said. “When our kids go to Eastern Cup we compete against private school kids and kids from all over, so I just tell them to work hard and just have fun.”

Like many coaches around Maine, DeAngelis only has fond memories of the hard-working Varney.

“I remember Roy was too shy to talk to my son Luca (the 2016 Class B state champion) and said, ‘Do you mind telling me how to get as good as Luca?’” DeAngelis said. “And I told him what he needed to do and he went on to do that, and more. It was so cool to watch someone have an idea of what he wanted to come and then did that. He treated the kids he competed against with absolute respect and it was awesome.”

Williamson said it’s great to hear all the stories about Varney from throughout the Maine ski community.

“The way the Nordic community has come together the past few months has felt unbelievable,” Williamson said. “It’s been very touching. He was an awesome person, an awesome athlete and, no question, Nordic was a huge passion.”


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