RUMFORD — The news that Zach Ross set a new course record at the Sassi Memorial Classic hadn’t reached Quarry Road Ski Club coach Jeff Tucker, yet.

Ross bolted across the finish line with a record time off 13 minutes, 58.5 seconds on Black Mountain’s 5K course on a snowy Saturday afternoon, but Tucker was waxing skis and out of the loop for the moment.

Zach Ross, skiing for Quarry Road Ski Club, chats with his teammates at the end of his race Saturday during the Sassi Memorial 5k Classical Race at Black Mountain in Rumford. Ross won the event and set a new course record. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Did he?” Tucker asked after he was told about Ross’s grand finish. “I had no idea. The Sassi is a new race to me. (It’s my) first one. I have heard a lot about it. I know it’s got a long storied history, so that’s really exciting that he set the course record.”

Ross, a senior at Messalonskee High School, said the skiing was fast and the tracks were also quick, but he said the Sassi is an opportunity for Quarry Roads athletes to face other high school skiers across the state.

“It was a good opportunity to see how we rank up,” Ross said, adding that winning and setting the course record “felt good. I was happy with that.”

He is hoping to attend St. Michaels in Vermont in the fall and ski for the college.


Ross was glad to see the snow squall that passed over Black Mountain didn’t linger.

“Conditions were a little funky out there today,” Tucker said. “(The event) started pretty straight forward, but then a classic Black Mountain snow squall moved in and made for not really challenging conditions, but pretty rapidly changing. By the time Zach got out on the course, the tracks were really glazed and icy and fast …”

Ross’ Quarry Road teammates Ben Condit (14:19.7), Abrahm Geissinger (14:38.0), a former Spruce Mountain skier, and Cote Beckett (14:38.3 ) occupied the fourth, fifth and sixth places of the top 10

“It is a great club to ski with,” Condit, who is an Edward Little senior, said. “The coach is great. The people are great so it is worth the drive.

“High school skiing has been kind of weird with COVID-19 and now we get to show up and race the Sassi, which is like the big Maine event because everybody is here,” Condit said. “You don’t have different classes dividing people. It is so much fun; the skiing was awesome.”

Gould Academy’s Eli Shifrin (14:04.6) and Ellis Slover (14:15.0), a former Edward Little skier and student, placed second and third place, respectively.


“It was a really good day,” Shifrin said. “We have been playing around in training. I switched to shorter poles today, which worked really well, except it popped off on High School Hill.

“I am going well then I looked behind and there was my poll in the snow, so I had to turn around (and get it). It probably cost me the win, but it is all good.”

Slover said the Sassi is always a big event to skiers in Maine.

“Black (Mountain) did a phenomenal job,” Slover said. “The tracks are crisp. A little snow came down. It was pretty sweet — and, yeah, it was a fun time.”

Gould coach and athletic director Ben Kamilewicz said spending a lot of time focusing on endurance technique paid off for Shifrin and Slover, who is in his first year at the Bethel school.

“We had really good skis today, but it could have been a little bit better, but we are always working on perfection,” Kamilewicz said. “Excellence is awesome.”


Mt. Blue’s Henri McCourt (14:49.3) took seventh place, Gould’s Nellis Parker (14:52.3) followed in eighth place and Leavitt’s Logan Ouellette (14:53.2 ) copped a ninth-place finish.

“It was our first classical race as a team, and they did really well,” Leavitt Nordic coach Dustin Williamson said.

Ouellette said his top-10 finish came down to several factors in the race.

Leavitt’s Logan Ouellette cruises down the first downhill Saturday during the Sassi Memorial 5k Classical Race at Black Mountain in Rumford. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Today was definitely the wax,  and it was also just keeping a really good form and really good technique,” Ouellette said. “Today was just a great day of racing.”


Gould’s Nyla Scott topped the pack with a winning time of 16:15.8, but Mt. Blue occupied four of the top-10 slots in the girls competition.


“It was pretty fun,” Scott said. “I kind of had a hard time right after High School Hill. There is like a little flat and then some uphill … other than that, it was was really fun, though.”

Scott made a game of catching and passing people along the way to her first-place finish.

“I think it was pretty fun trying to catch people,” she said. “I started pretty far back, but it was fun catching people. It was kind of fun having some traffic on the course.”

Moriah Reusch, skiing for Mt. Blue, tucks down the final hill Saturday during the Sassi Memorial 5k Classical Race at Black Mountain in Rumford. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Mt. Blue’s Bridget Reusch (17:21.9) and Moriah Reusch (17:25.3), Maya Kallett (17:47.8) and Nora McCourt (17:48.8) ended up finishing fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th place. Gould’s Kamryn (17:24.3 ) Joyce finished sixth.

“The tracks are beautiful today,” Bridget Reusch said as she tried to to stop herself from giggling.

“High School Hill is definitely a challenge,” McCourt said. “I loved the downhills. They were wicked fast. The tracks were really beautiful and glazed. I love this course.”


Mt. Blue coach Emmy Weld was not stunned by the Cougars’ performances.

“It went pretty well,” Weld said. “I didn’t look at results yet because I was so busy waxing and then checking in with the kids … Maybe not a huge surprise, but I am really excited seeing them shining.”


Payton Bell, skiing for Quarry Road Ski Club, gets a strong start Saturday during the Sassi Memorial 5k Classical Race at Black Mountain in Rumford. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Edward Little senior Payton Bell, known for her distance running, decided to join Quarry Roads as the only female skier for the winter because she is not fond of indoor track. 

“This is my first year skiing since eighth grade,” said Bell, who finished 21st at 19:02.9. “I love classic skiing a lot more than skate, so it was really fun.”

Brunswick junior Maeve Woodruff said this was her first time competing in the Sassi, too. She turned in a third-place performance with an impressive time of 17:09.7.

“I really fueled well (for the race),” she said. “I drank a lot of water. I really had a good mindset going into the race. I just felt really strong. 

“I really didn’t know much about the course going in. We did a quick course preview.” 

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