Finally, Taconic will get a couple mulligans today.
The Braves are taking a county-high six girls to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's Alpine skiing championships. That means, for the first time since 2009, there will be room for error.
"You need three times," said Braves coach Marc Latimer. "To have six girls over there all qualifying, it takes the pressure off them somewhat. If the first three girls finish, the last three can step it up a bit."
Berkshire County will send a larger field to the state championships. Thanks to expansion, 14 boys and 12 girls from the county are headed to Berkshire East Ski Area for today's race. The county is allowed two spots for each team competing during the regular season.
That expanded list of qualifiers allowed so many Braves to make the field. Teams need to have three racers finish in order to count in the team rankings. Taconic is also sending four boys, led by county champion Eamon Connor.
"I think Eamon's going to do very well," Latimer said. "The way he's skiing, he's really turned it on."
Racers have had a couple weeks off since the end of the regular season at Bousquet Ski Area. Girls will run the giant slalom course in the morning starting at 9:30, while the boys will be on slalom. The genders will swap for the afternoon race.
There will be 143 boys and 140 girls competing. County girls champion Emma Peplowski of the Pittsfield/St. Joe co-op team will be the first out of the gate in the girls field while Connor is fourth in the boys run order.
Peplowski said she laughed when she realized the random draw had placed her No. 1.
"Just my luck, I'm No. 1," she said. "It's funny. You got to laugh it off. If you let it get to you, you'll psyche yourself out. You don't want that to happen at states."
Latimer emphasized the long break has allowed his skiers to rest up, while Peplowski said she misses the adrenaline from competing two or three times a week. No matter what side of the fence you fall on, avoiding mistakes will be key. For teams like the Monument Mountain and Pittsfield boys, who have qualified three racers each, one slip will doom the team. It's the kind of pressure Latimer's teams faced in the past.
"If we have clean runs, I think we'll do very well," said Spartans coach Peter Dunham. "That's the key, just managing mistakes. ... You used to have your team, you could rely on your team. Now you're more individually responsible. I try not to talk about that. I don't really get into that. I just try to do the same thing they've done all year long. Keep that same routine."