REGION — While states south of us are pulling out their golf clubs and lacing up running shoes the young skiers in western Maine continue to impress.  Black Mountain in Rumford hosted the Maine Junior Ski League Championships on March 1 where the Smith sisters took the top two podium spots with Lillian placing first (10:43.7) and Tess second (11:48.8).

Isla DeCato crossed the finish line 22nd (15:06.2) and Osie Hedden 23rd (15.17.8).   The girls who attend both the Eddy School and Telstar Middle School ski for the Telstar team.  Telstar girls won 2nd overall in the Nordic Combined.

The Telstar boy’s team does not have enough skiers to get a team score but Reece Pierce placed very well, crossing the finish line in 8th place (11:09) on the 3K course and Davon DeGruttola skiing his last race as a middle schooler placed 30th (14:13.6).

The Nordic season for young skiers in New England and New York culminates with a celebration of winter and skiing at the Bill Koch Festival (BKL).  This year the BKL was hosted by Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury, Vermont.   The Bethel Outing Club generously sent 13 skiers, several parents and 3 coaches to the two day event that took place March 4th and 5th.

The eight inches of fresh snow that fell throughout Saturday added to the magic of the day.  The first day’s event was a team relay, always exciting to watch and the spectators were not disappointed.   The mass start of more than 50 skiers at at time for each of the age groups for boys and girls makes for an exciting finish as spectators can tell who the victor is, unlike interval starts where one has to visit the results board to be certain.

Lillian Smith and Mallory Raymond being the first Maine team to finish placed 7th overall for seventh and eighth grade girls.  Tess Smith and H. Olmstead placed 16th.  Isla DeCato and Osie Hedden placed 32nd in the 2K X 2 Lap Relay.

Gwendolyn Stack and Lucy DeCato who teamed up for the 5th and 6th grade girls placed 24th.  Grades 3 and 4 girl’s team comprised of Cecilia Crooker and Althea Weisberger placed 24th.   Abe Crooker from Bethel skied with B. Irving and W. Billings to place 7th for third and fourth grade boys while Will Colby and D. Fullerton placed 34th.  Billie Weisberger and Preston Stack placed 26th for grades 1 and 2, boys and girls combined.

On Sunday the snow had stopped and left the coaches with difficult conditions to wax for.  Coach Ben Kamilewicz spent much of his day in the Gould wax trailer trying to match the appropriate wax to the ever-changing conditions of fresh snow, mostly sunny skies, and pleasant temperatures.

The seventh and eight grade girls skied first on the classic 4K course.  Mallory Raymond placed 6th overall and was the first girl in Maine to cross the finish line.  Lillian Smith made it to the podium again with her 20th place finish.  Osie Hedden at her first BKL festival placed 60th, Isla DeCato 62nd, and Tess Smith 63rd.

For grades 5/6  Lucy DeCato placed 49th and Gwen Stack finished 54th.  Will Colby placed 51st for boys.

Grades 3/4 girls found Cecilia Crooker crossing the finish line 40th and Althea Weisberger 50th.  On the podium placing 12th Abe Crooker was the 2nd boy from Maine to cross the finish line for grades 3/4 boys.

Grades 1 and 2 boys and girls skied together a 1K loop where Preston Stack finished 26th and Billie Weisberger finished 53rd.

While success can be measured in podium visits and trophies, the real benchmark of success in the Bethel Area Nordic skiing community can be measured in smiles, developing comraderie between skiers of all ages, unprecedented participation in the Mahoosuc Kids Association Ski Program at Crescent Park and overwhelming postitive community involvement in Wednesday Nights under the Lights at Gould Academy’s Pine Hill. Expect more great things from the skiers next year.  Rollerski camp anyone?

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