High school Nordic skiing state championship preview
For the first time in recent memory, it will be Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts Nordic skiers who have to get up early.
The MIAA state championship was moved from its Notchview Reservation home in Windsor to the Nordic facility at the Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course in Weston.
"We've skied courses we don't know before. [Traveling east] is definitely the biggest curve ball," said Wahconah coach Kiersten Touponce. "[On Tuesday] we had a longer team meeting to get the jitters out" and answer all pertinent questions.
The girls will ski their 7-kilometer race first, beginning at 10:30 a.m.. The boys' 7-k race will start at noon.
MIAA tournament director Joe Miller of Lenox said that despite Monday's snow, Notchview wasn't ready to host the race.
"Windsor doesn't have anything except for a few inches of fluffy snow," he said, adding that a more solid base is needed for racing than for just skiing. "There's no density to it.
"[Weston] has enough to pack down. It will give us a skiable surface."
Miller said that Weston received eight inches of snow last week and eight more inches in the snow that fell from Monday night into Tuesday.
When the teams reach Weston today, the Mount Greylock boys will be battling to win their sixth consecutive MIAA state championship. The last girls team from Berkshire County to win a state title was Mount Greylock back in 2012. The Lenox girls have the longest consecutive run of state titles, stretching from 1996-2003.
The top two returning racers from last year in the boys field are Brookline's Jordan Fried and Mount Greylock's Matt Wiseman. Fried was fourth last year and Wiseman took fifth.
On the girls' side, two of last year's top four finishers return. Runner-up Gabby Vandendries is back as is Mount Greylock's Grace Smith, who took fourth last year.
Miller said the plan is to set up a 3.7-kilometer loop on the golf course.
"At one point, all the skiers will be on the loop at one time," said Miller, who added that each wave of athletes will be going off at one-minute intervals instead of two minutes.
"It's different," Miller said,. "I would think a skier would push a little harder. They're not going to have to worry about the next corner" in the woods.
Miller also added that the golf course should make it more spectator friendly.
But not too friendly for the Western Mass. contingents of racers heading east. Berkshire County teams may have to battle rush hour traffic as they approach metropolitan Boston.
And then, there's Touponce's team, that will have to get an extra early start as the school bus leaves Wahconah at 6 a.m.
"Some of our kids take a half-hour or 45 minutes just to get to the school," she said.
Miller said that if this is a successful meet, it could lead to an alternating between East and West for the state championships, similar to what Alpine skiing does when it alternates between Berkshire East in Charlemont and Wachusett Mountain in Princeton.
All of that discussion is for another day. All the skiers know is that state titles are on the line today.
"We're just ready to ski," said Touponce.
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