Logan Ouellette, right, and Dominick Toscano ski in the fading light Jan. 8 at the Auburn Nordic Ski Association trails. The two are members of the Nordic ski team at Leavitt Area High School. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

Editor’s note: The Sun Journal previewed Franklin- and Kennebec-county teams as their seasons were starting last month. Now, we are previewing the Androscoggin, Oxford and Cumberland teams from the Sun Journal’s coverage area.

Talent, hard work and optimism all make for a winning combination for the Leavitt Nordic ski team.

“This team works very well together, supports each other, and they all make the team a great place to be,” Leavitt coach Dustin Williamson said. “The personalities, the humor, the hard work, the dedication, and the technique focus are all strengths.

“This team is special because we always strive to make Nordic skiing a team sport.”

Some members of the team even found a way to get training in before Williamson was allowed to work in-person with his squad.

Williamson expects the KVAC to be just as competitive despite the pandemic.

“The KVAC league is always competitive and this unique season is no different,” he said. “Mt. Blue, Maranacook, Mt. Ararat and Edward Little all have great skiers on their teams. It will be very exciting!”

DIRIGO COUGARS

Dirigo Nordic ski coach David Buck applauds his athletes for keeping it together during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They are staying positive, getting out there and supporting each other, laughing, learning, getting exercise,” Buck said. “Their positivity at the end of the day is really inspiring. I know they’ll never forget this season — for better and worse. I know I won’t, and they are definitely the ‘better’ part of the ‘better or worse.’”

For Buck and his Cougars, an iffy season hasn’t stopped them from enjoying being on the snowy courses.

“Currently our regular season schedule is down to two races, and then onto the MVC meet, so obviously everything has to be tempered by the realization that this is not like any other season we’ve ever seen,” Buck said. “That they willingly show up each day with a smile and a positive attitude — ready to ski and learn — and still wear a mask for an extra hour and a half, speaks volumes about their strength of character.”

EDWARD LITTLE RED EDDIES

Besides talent, perhaps Edward Little’s second-greatest asset just might me be the Red Eddies’ positive outlook.

“This (boys) team has been together since middle school,” EL coach Eric Cobb explained. “They are all great friends who spend time together both on snow and off. They always support each other, no matter what happens.

“This is a great bunch of girls who really to like ski. I’ve seen nothing but smiling faces from this group.”

Buck added that his Eddies have the potential to make strong showings in the KVAC meet.

“The boys should have a very strong season with an opportunity to place highly in the KVAC meet,” he said. “After five years, the girls finally have enough skiers to score and should have a great season.

“With strong freshmen and sophomores pushing the older skiers, the competition amongst the team is fantastic. With strong leadership from Lily Vincent, we expect great things from our girls team this year.”

GRAY-NEW GLOUCESTER PATRIOTS

G-NG coach Jeff McEvoy’s confidence is high, but the uncertainty of the ski season weighs heavily on his mind.

He said that senior William Maines is in the running for podium at a state-level class B race — “if we have one.”

“Juniors Michael Sweeney and Wyatt Fessler are expected to finish near the front of the pack, with Sweeney giving Maines a run for his money,” he added.

Despite the pandemic, McEvoy couldn’t be more proud of his team’s dedication.

“Best thing about our team is how they all ski together, encouraging each other to ski to their potential,” he said. “(It has been a) tough year with COVID-19 and little snow to train on.”

MOUNTAIN VALLEY FALCONS

This is the first year that Mountain Valley will be fielding a Nordic team, and coach Dylan Cayer has his work cut out for him.

“As a team with such small numbers and new skiers, we are aiming to get the fundamentals down, with some solid results and added recruitment for next season,” Cayer said. “We have two skiers (freshmen River Durant and David Packard) who really put in the effort, are really open and receptive to new ideas and who are incredibly optimistic.

“We are currently unable to get the numbers we need to have a proper team, but hopes are high we can get some new skiers as the season progresses.”

But Cayer said numbers are down across the Mountain Valley Conference due to COVID-19. “But I think we’ll have a solid core of competitive skiers to make up for the dip in numbers,” he added.

OXFORD HILLS VIKINGS

Coach Chris Easton has no idea how the season will transpire due to the unpredictability and long reach of COVID-19.

“With COVID, starting late on Dec. 11 with virtual practices, not being able to have in-person practices until Jan. 21 and not being able to participate in races until after Feb. 8, I have no idea,” Easton said. “The fact that they have stuck with a late start, very little snow to start with, over a month of virtual practices, and they are still excited to ski.”

While the boys will field a full team, there are only two girls skiing for the Vikings.

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