A year after a snow drought wiped out most of the high school Nordic ski calendar, this season hasn't been much better -- even with more snow in the forecast.
Skiers haven't raced the last three weeks for a variety of reasons, including too much snow from this weekend's blizzard.
"It was almost like a tease," said Wahconah coach Kiersten Touponce. "We thought it was going to be better than last year and it sort of ended similarly. I haven't seen a lot of my kids race in over a month."
The good news for Nordic teams is the state championships will go on this morning at a familiar location: Notchview Reservation in Windsor. Last year the championship races were moved to Prospect Mountain in Vermont, but this year Notchview should have enough snow for today's races, which begin with the girls at 10:30 a.m. The boys follow at 12 p.m. on a course that should measure between 7 and 7.5 kilometers long.
The season started strong with four races at traditional Nordic venues -- three at Prospect and one at Wahconah High School. The last month has been a struggle. One race was axed due to cold weather, another was wiped out by a lack of snow and then the travel ban from last weekend's blizzard eliminated the final regular season race.
"To get all three scenarios three weeks in a row is very unusual," said state race director Joe Miller. "Usually when you have cold weather you have enough for the following week."
Instead melting following that cold spell kept skiers sidelined. Weather generally hasn't been a problem for Eastern Massachusetts competitors, who got in five races on a short, man-made loop in Weston.
In Western Mass., Berkshire County teams have gotten pretty good at creative training when the snow isn't perfect. Touponce and her team have scouted spots around Dalton that have enough snow for them to train. The Warriors have only had to run instead of ski once this year.
In Williamstown, defending state champion Mount Greylock has done some different things, such as scavenger hunts. The Mounties have also simulated races, including a mock race on Sunday.
"The kids have not been sitting around," said Greylock girls coach Hilary Greene. "They're not rusty. They've been doing some good workouts. ... What mostly we lose is excitement and team spirit and community with the other teams."
You can expect the usual party atmosphere that permeates the state championship today. Miller said he expects 19 teams and nearly 240 skiers to descend on Notchview.
Lenox's Josie Marshall is happy to be racing in Windsor again, one of her favorite spots. Marshall won three league races earlier this season, but none of them have come at Notchview.
"It feels awesome," Marshall said. "We haven't even had a race this year at Notchview yet. Notchview is what I know best. Even know I'm going through the course in my head and I know what I'm going to do."
More mysterious is what the eastern schools will be able to do, said Greylock boys coach Hiram Greene. He does expect a competitive championship. The important thing is a good race in good weather.
"I hope [today] will salvage some of the bad breaks we had," Hiram Greene said. "We started off so well. We had four nice races, nice weather, nice conditions. Then the bottom fell out."
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