Mt. Blue’s Henri McCourt competes during the Nordic freestyle state championship race on Feb. 20 at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington. McCourt, a junior, won the classical and freestyle pursuit Class A state titles for the second year in a row. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Henri McCourt faced many illness-related setbacks early in this year’s Nordic skiing season.

“I was sick a lot, both in the fall during the cross country season, and then several times more in early December and then again in late December over Christmas break,” McCourt said. “I lost a lot of training time and it kind of knocked me down.”

The Mt. Blue junior battled back to claim multiple high finishes, including first at the Smells Like Ski Spirit race, second at the Roy Varney Hornet Classic and fourth at the Sassi Memorial race. He also finished first at the KVAC championships in both freestyle and classical and repeated as Class A champion in the classical and freestyle pursuit.

He also has been selected as the 2024 Sun Journal All-Region Boys Nordic Skier of the Year, for the second year in a row.

McCourt said he started off the season in “kind of a not awesome place,” but managed to recover his strength and endurance.

He’s also a three-sport athlete, running cross country in the fall and track and field in the spring. Much like his twin sister, Nora McCourt, Henri focuses on strength training, roller skiing, mountain biking and cross training.


“I had to spend a lot of time building back and focusing on recovering and gradually working back up, building back up, which was kind of frustrating for me because I would really rather just be able to ski a lot in the winter because I love skiing,” Henri McCourt said.

While one of his season highlights was winning sweeping the state championships at Titcomb Mountain — Mt. Blue’s home mountain — the moment he’s most proud of is when the Cougars won the sportsmanship banner, because he said it is representative of the cohesion of this year’s crew.

“I feel like this year, the whole team integrated together; we had several freshmen but the freshmen really, effectively absorbed into the team,” McCourt said. “I think everyone was having a lot of fun together, and the team was pretty close in ability, which when you’re racing close together, I feel like often that makes friendships closer.”

McCourt said the team is serious and motivated when it comes to skiing, but off the snow the Cougars are very “light-hearted, upbeat and a happy-go-lucky group of kids.”

Mt. Blue Nordic coach Emmy Held added to that by saying the boys group is extremely close and often inseparable. There were no seniors, so the team gets to race together again next season.

“You’ll hear Henri after a race calling his teammates, you know, his ‘beautiful lads,’” Held said. “’Oh, I need to gather my beautiful lads to cool down.’ Or he wants to hear from everybody after the race and how they’ve done. It’s the same for all of them, like no one’s ever like, ‘Oh, Henri’s winning again,’ they’re very excited for him and how it helps them be better.”


Held described McCourt as everyone’s biggest supporter, and as one of three captains this season, his leadership helped navigate the team towards success.

She also said he’s extremely analytical and can be too hard on himself after an undesired race result.

“He is very critical in terms of critical thinking about his training and what he can be doing differently, and a very thoughtful young man,” Held said. “We talked about how success isn’t always linear and that growth doesn’t always look linear.”

While Held said she saw his frustration with certain performances throughout the season, she was proud to see his mentality shift and allowed things to “roll off his shoulders by the end of the season.”

“It’s such a pleasure to work with an athlete that’s so analytical and interested in incorporating feedback and moving forward,” Held said.

McCourt finished fifth overall at the Eastern High School Championships, and was the top Mainer, just like twin sister Nora McCourt. In the 7.5-kilometer classical mass start, he finished third overall.


Held said Henri McCourt’s results this season did not come as a surprise. After his dominant sophomore year, she had high expectations for him, and even with the illnesses, he exceeded her expectations.

McCourt said Held was a major supporter for him, because she likes to talk through things with her athletes to ensure they are motivated to succeed.

“She doesn’t put a ton of pressure on athletes in situations where that wouldn’t be helpful,” McCourt said. “I think she’s done a lot to really create a super positive and supportive atmosphere.”

Held said that despite being so analytical and critical, McCourt also can be silly when he’s out of his racing zone.

“Sometimes from the outside, especially on race days, I think he comes across as a very serious person,” Held said. “Yet, he’s one of the goofiest kids that we have on the team and is often wearing the silliest, most clashing outfit that he can come up with that he’s found. He’s doing stunts in the woods with the other boys, he’s giggling and he’s very silly.

“He’s a very goofy kid, and I think that a lot of people would be surprised by that, because they think that he takes himself really seriously or he takes sport very seriously. He does it because he loves it, and all of the data and the analysis is part of that love for him, but it’s also just absolute silliness that he finds on snow.”

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