When it comes to competition, athletes are athletes whatever their ages.

A freshman can potentially be as good as a senior on the court, in the field, or on the snow.

Things do change, however, when sophomores become juniors.

"I need to be more of a leader because people are looking up to you and they're all new to the team," said Lauren Farry, a Pittsfield student who races for the Taconic co-op Nordic team. "You kind of have to show them what to do."

A year ago, Mount Greylock's Jake Foehl finished 15th in the state Nordic championships as a sophomore. Now, finishing up his junior season, he said it wasn't just about improving his skills on the course.

"It did feel different. At the beginning of the year, we had a meeting and upperclassmen appointed me captain. I wanted to take a leadership role on this team," said Foehl, "as opposed to being kind of the guy under.

"Last year, we had four seniors that I really admired and looked up to. This year, I wanted to be that guy that younger kids could look up to."

Looking at the results from Tuesday's MIAA state Nordic championships, there are seniors like Lenox's Josie Marshall, sophomores like Hoosac Valley's Jared Haley and Mount Greylock's Grace Smith, all competing and finishing in their respective top 20s.

But it's racers like Haley and Smith who will make the crossover from underclassman to upperclassman when they hit the snow again next fall.

Foehl said that he doesn't feel like an upperclassman when he gets to the starting line.

"Ever since seventh grade, I've gotten a little nervous before races. You take a few deep breaths at the starting line and go," said Foehl. "It's been the same deal ever since I started skiing."

Greylock's Will Nolan said he feels different as a junior racer than he did as a sophomore.

"I feel like there's a lot more pressure. Last year, if you have a good race it was exciting and good for you," Nolan said. "There wasn't the expectations maybe that there are now from the coaches and everyone else.

"I don't mind more pressure. I think it can help."

Foehl is a captain of the Greylock Nordic team and he said that has been part of what has made this such an enjoyable season.

"We have such a great group of younger kids. I love spending time with them," Foehl said. "I love being somebody they can look up to.

"I really like being a leader."

Kyle Zinchuk felt just like all the juniors do. Zinchuk, who was a multi-sport athlete at Lenox and is now the Nordic coach, said that when he became a junior, he felt things change and for the better.

"It's not just in sports," said Zinchuk. "In terms of academics, they're starting to think about colleges. They're doing SATs. I think all of that factors into them having to really take on leadership [roles] and mature."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman