Friendly rivals on the snow
WINDSOR -- The rivalry is defined by friendship.
Before Tuesday's Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Nordic ski championship, Berkshire County's two best female competitors decided to race like teammates. Mount Greylock's Kat Chenail and Lenox's Josie Marshall worked together on the way to two top-10 finishes.
"It's really fun because you know as soon as you cross the finish line, whoever finished [first] will be there waiting to give you a hug," Chenail said. "I know that no matter what at the end of the race we'll still be really good friends.
"There's no animosity or frustration when she beats me. It's like fun competition."
Chenail was the first across the line on Tuesday, finishing seventh in 25 minutes, 37 seconds. That was four seconds and two spots ahead of Marshall. It was Chenail's first win over Marshall since the first race of the season. The Millionaire had won three straight races since.
But Marshall wasn't bummed. Smiling at the finish line, she said she was pleased.
"We took turns leading and I just couldn't stay with her on the last bit," Marshall said. "I feel like we both had really strong races and she had a really great finish."
The friends didn't shy away from each other leading up to the championship. They intentionally skied in the same wave, and talked before the race about cooperation. Mounties girls coach Hilary Greene said she sometimes thinks of Marshall like a member of her team, and the Lenox skier worked with Chenail like she was a Mountie.
The pair was in the toughest wave, with seven of the top 10 finishers coming out of the second grouping. Greene said it was important to keep contact with all that talent and be patient. Working together was the easiest way to do that.
"I think they recognize they wouldn't be skiing as fast as they are unless they had each other," Greene said. "If they're going to push themselves, they need each other. That's good for both of them."
They propelled each other forward right to the end. It was on a final stretch on Shaw road that Greylock assistant coach Matt Vosin told Chenail she needed to "burn a match" or go for one last surge of energy. Chenail took off and Marshall said her legs were just dead.
"If she had gone, I would've been OK with it," Chenail said. "I want to see her do well just as much as I want to see myself do well."
The friendship forged on the trails didn't see an end on Tuesday, but together Chenail and Marshall climbed their biggest hill yet. Greene said there's always this sense of wanting to be the best, but the competition stops at the finish line. There it's just hugs all around.
Lenox girls coach Miranda Miller said that's just the beauty of Nordic skiing.
"I don't think they would've been friends, if they didn't do this sport they wouldn't know each other," Miller said. "That's what's great about this sport. You make friends with your enemies."
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