The New England skiing community descended on Fort Kent, Maine this weekend for the final high school championship event of the 2019 season, Eastern High School Championships. Fort Kent Outdoor Center was our host for the weekend, and they pulled out all the stops with great grooming, fantastic course design, a well set up stadium, and the first Nordic Cross sprint ever held at EHSC! Teams from New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts made the trip north to race, and we were super excited to have guest skiers Elizabeth Anderson from Connecticut, and Sam Bosse from New Brunswick, Canada with us for the weekend as well.
The first event was the individual 5k freestyle race on Friday afternoon. All through the morning rain fell and the course was wrapped in fog, but luckily the rain stopped shortly before the first race of the day at 3:00pm. The snow was soft after the warm morning and the rain, but racers made the most of the snow and put down some fast times on the hilly course that wound its way out of the stadium and into the woods. Skiers went off in 15 second interval starts, which created a constant stream of finishers powering into the stadium. A large crowd of spectators was in attendance for the Friday afternoon races and it was great to hear the cheering and cowbells for each skier as they came in.
Our second event of the weekend was a 7.5km classic mass start race. The course started out with the same 5k loop from the day before, before adding on a short 2.5km loop that ended up back in the stadium. The mass start races were full of excitement with the crowd of skiers all flying off of the start line together, closely packed. In the boys race we saw a few crashes on the way out of the stadium. A lot can happen over the course of 7.5k, and in both the boys and girls races, there was a lot of excitement as the skiers jockeyed for position on the climbs and descents!
As Saturday afternoon rolled around you could feel the excitement start to rise in the stadium area. It was the event that everyone had been waiting for – the Nordic Cross Sprint! The course was a 1.1km loop with a drop jump, banked turn, slalom gates, rollers, and the famous bicycle pump. Skiers went off in waves of 4 and competed head to head to make their way through the course with the fastest time while navigating the agility features. This is an exciting new discipline of skiing that rewards good balance and all around athleticism as much as pure aerobic ability.
Skiers send it off of the drop jump
Saturday evening the teams made their way over to Fort Kent Elementary School for a banquet, awards ceremony, and raffle. The organizing committee had wooden medals and homemade whoopie pies for the top 10 skiers in each individual race, as well as carved wooden plaques for the overall winners.
Sunday morning dawned cold and partially cloudy, it was a big change from the warmer weather over the previous two days and it was clear that the snow would be fast for the 4 x 3.5km mixed gender, mixed technique relay. States fielded teams of 4, made up of 2 boys and 2 girls. The relays started out with a boys classic leg, followed by a girls classic leg, then boys skate, followed by girls skate. It was exciting to stand in the tag zone and watch the skiers navigate the sea of people to find and tag their teammates. The mixed relay is an awesome team building race, with skiers relying on their team to put in the work on their respective legs of the race. The crowd was going wild with cheers for this event, and it was a super fun way to wrap up our weekend of racing in Fort Kent!
After the relay, teams and spectators gathered for the relay podium awards, as well as the overall team awards. The Graham Taylor cup was awarded to the team that scored the most points over the course of the weekend, and this year that honor went to Team Vermont.
NENSA would like to extend a huge congratulations to all of the skiers that competed with us at Eastern High School Championships this year – it’s an honor to be able to witness high school ski racing at such a high level! We’d like to thank our hosts and organizers at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center, all of the amazing volunteers who made the weekend go off smoothly, our sponsors for supporting an active skiing community in New England, and all of the parents and coaches who support our New England athletes!
For full results and photos from the weekend, please see the links below. All photos used in this post were taken by Dave Priganc.