Members of the Leavitt Area High School Nordic ski team participate in the 2nd annual Roy-ller Ski on Lower Street in Turner on Thursday. Roy-ller Ski is being held July 1 to 31 in memory of Roy Varney, a state champion skier at Leavitt who died on July 2, 2019, from an accident at his family’s farm. Money raised will support the Maine Outdoor Wellness Center, a Nordic ski center being built in Turner. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

TURNER — It’s a good thing the term “social distance” was not a concern at the time of Roy Varney’s passing last July.

A celebration of his life was held inside a 100-foot-long hoop house on the Varney family farm in Turner.

Family expected a couple hundred people. Over 1,000 showed up.

“We did not know that Roy had touched so many people,” his mother, Gloria Varney, said.

The 19-year-old was in an accident at the family farm on July 1, 2019, and died early the following morning.

Roy Varney, right, and his brother, Everet, graduated from Leavitt Area High School in Turner. Both were members of the Hornets Nordic ski team. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The two-time Maine Class A Boys Nordic Classical State Champion is still inspiring cross-country skiers, however, who are now ramping up their summer training to get in shape for the winter.

“He’s helping me out even now,” Leavitt Area High School senior Jaidyn Negley said last week.

Negley met Varney when she was a freshman on the Nordic ski team. Varney was a junior known for his hard work ethic.

“Roy taught me that it’s not just about genetics. It takes a lot of hard work to get good,” Negley said.

“He worked at the farm, did all of his schoolwork and still found time to train,” Negley said. “When I think my days are full, I look at what he did. That is what stood out to me the most.”

Roy Varney was one Gregg and Gloria Varney’s five children raised on their farm.

“We taught our children that one of the best ways to stay in shape is by farming,” Gloria Varney said.

“Making gains” was one of Roy Varney’s favorite sayings, Leavitt Nordic ski coach Dustin Williamson said. Little by little, Varney would make himself a faster and faster skier through hard work, he said.

At the Varney farm, Leavitt skiers still work out in Roy’s Gains Room, a former grain storage area Roy filled with workout equipment he improvised rather than purchase. One is a weight bench made of wood he found around the farm.

“There is like five pounds of screws in that thing,” Gloria Varney said. “Roy would improvise based on what he needed or what he didn’t have,” she said. “Going out and buying something every time you need something is not an option when you live on a farm. If you want something, go make it work.”

Gloria Varney said her son’s passion for working out soon started taking up too much room in her husband’s workshop. So Roy Varney converted a grain storage area into a gym that was eventually called Roy’s Gains Room after one of his favorite sayings: “making gains.” His teammates still exercise there. “They are invited to come anytime they want,” Gloria Varney said. “I think it’s good therapy for his friends. They can just be with Roy.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Roy Varney made it work. He found that throwing 40-pound bails of hay in different ways could build different muscles. “A bail of hay was like a barbell to Roy,” his mother said.

Varney’s inspiration has traveled well beyond the trails of the Leavitt ski team. Skiers young and old across New England are Roy-ller skiing this month in his memory.

Varney had hopes of taking his success in Nordic skiing to the next level through biathlon, a combination of Nordic skiing and rifle shooting. The nearest Maine biathlon centers are in Fort Kent and Presque Isle, a four- to five-hour drive away.

That will soon change because of his dream.

Nearly 100 people are participating in the second annual Roy-ller Ski, where participants roller ski, run or bike to raise money for the Maine Outdoor Wellness Center. The Nordic ski facility will have an extensive cross-country trail system and a biathlon range on the Varney family’s “North Farm” on River Road in Turner.

“The conversation was already in place for the Nordic and biathlon center before Roy’s passing,” Gloria Varney said.

“Roy always wanted a training center in the area,” Williamson said. “That was Roy’s dream. We are going to make his dream come true.”

A picture of Roy Varney collecting eggs on his family’s farm when he was 3 years old is posted on a wall of Roy’s Gains Room at his parents’ Nezinscot Farm in Turner. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“Even with the pandemic, there has been some great progress on it,” Williamson said. “The goal is to have a 2.5-kilometer loop open this winter. We are on our way to achieve that goal.”

Williamson said the Roy Varney Hornet Classic high school ski race will be held at the center rather than at Leavitt this coming winter.

Gloria Varney said construction of the welcome center will begin in a couple of weeks.

Roy Varney’s brother Everet, along with brothers Nathaniel and Eli Bell, have built 2.5 miles of mountain bike trails at the center and have plans for 2.5 more miles.

During the Roy-ller Ski, participants can register for one of six categories to commemorate the date of Varney’s accident. Williamson signed up for Speedy Repeater to roller ski 71.19 kilometers over multiple outings. The numbers signify the date of his accident, 7/1/19.

Event organizer Jenny Wilbraham chose to roller ski 71.19 kilometers all at once as a Rockstar entry.

Gloria Varney signed up for Art for Roy. She used a tracking app that draws a line where you walk, bike, run, etc. In her case, while walking the sheep from the pasture to the barn Thursday, her pattern spelled ROY. “The art of farming is a mindset,” she said.

Others will ride their bikes for 71.19 kilometers or for 71 minutes and 19 seconds.

Williamson said this will be his first year without a Varney on the ski team. Everet Varney graduated in 2020 and was the last of Gregg and Gloria’s children to ski for him.

“They have been a big part of the team for a long time,” said Williamson, who has coached at Leavitt for 17 years.

On each Leavitt Nordic team member’s sweatshirt is written “Live Like Roy Did.” “Because he lived life to its fullest,” Williamson said. “Roy worked hard, but he loved to have fun and joke around even more.”

“There was never a dull moment when Roy was around,” Negley said.

Gloria Varney said she had no idea the impact her son had on the Nordic community, not just in Maine, but all across New England. She said people from the New England Nordic Ski Association and the Outdoor Sport Institute came to the celebration of his life.

“We never realized the impact Roy had on so many people,” she said. “That’s what pushes us along.”

For more information about Roy-ller Ski, go to skireg.com/roy-llerski.

Leavitt Area High School Nordic ski coach Dustin Williamson and Kathy Bryant participate in the 2nd annual Roy-ller Ski on Lower Street in Turner on Thursday in memory of Roy Varney. “There has always been a Varney on the team,” said Williamson, who has coached at Leavitt for 17 years. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Roy Varney won the prestigious Sassi Memorial at Black Mountain in Rumford in 2019, the year he died in an accident at his family’s farm in Turner. He stands with Emily Gerencer of St. Dominic Academy, who placed second in the women’s race. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Leavitt Area High School senior Jaidyn Negley met Roy Varney when she was a freshman on the Turner school’s ski team. “He worked at the farm, did all of his schoolwork and still found time to train,” Negley said. “When I think my days are full, I look at what he did.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Edward Little High School Nordic team members Aiden Morrison, left, and Casey Burhoe participate in the 2nd annual Roy-ller Ski on Summer Street in Auburn on Friday. Skiers from across New England and beyond are helping raise money for a Nordic ski center being built in Turner in memory of Leavitt Area High School skier Roy Varney. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

 

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