CHITTENDEN, VT — Five local athletes traveled to Chittenden, VT, to compete in the U16 Eastern High School Nordic Championships.
Teams of 24 boys and 24 girls from Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and individuals from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan competed over three days in five races.
Racing began Friday afternoon at the Mountain Top Nordic Center with a 5K Freestyle Race. Racers skied two hilly laps, which saw soft, slow snow.
Local standout Lydia Hodgeman of BFA St. Albans had an outstanding first lap and was running with the second place girl. She earned a fourth-place finish and was the top Vermont finisher at 16:33.
Four local boys toed the start line, Brendan Quinn of BFA Fairfax--the 17th Vermonter at 68th in 17:03, Calvin Storms of BFA St. Albans the 20th Vermonter in 17:10, with Ethan Mashtare the 21st Vermonter in 77th in 17:17. Ryan Thatcher of BFA Fairfax was the 23rd Vermonter in 89th place in 18:48.
After day one, the Vermont boys were first over Maine by one point; the girls were in third, 92 points behind first-place New Hampshire.
The boys’ and girls’ scores were combined, and New Hampshire led with 3,588 points, Maine was second with 3,505, and Vermont was third with 3,497.
Vermont would have to regroup and have a strong second day to stay in contention for the Championship.
On the second day, athletes would compete in a 5K Classic and a 1.5K Freestyle Sprint. A drop in temperature kept the wax techs busy as they rushed to wax 48 pairs of skis.
Hodgeman tackled the 5 K course in true ‘Lydia style’, full speed ahead. She was the 4th Vermonter across the line in 11th place in 19:48.
Mashtare was the first local boy across the line and would be the 14th Vermonter in 49th place in a time of 17:50. Storms was next, the 18th Vermonter and 69th place in 18:34.
Close on his heels was Quinn, the 19th Vermonter in 72nd in a time of 18:40. Thatcher would be the 23rd Vermonter in 89th in 19:36.
The afternoon race would bring cooler temperatures and a strong headwind up the final hill.
Hodgman was the 5th Vermonter and 11th overall in 4:32. Mashtare was the 14th Vermonter in 57th with a time of 4:18, followed by Quinn the 15th Vermonter in 58th with a time of 4:19.
Storms was caught up in a crash that cost him a few seconds. He still was the 22nd Vermonter in 86th in 4:33. Thatcher was the 23rd Vermonter in 94th place in 4:40.
Both Vermont teams would win the Sprint and set themselves up for the win going into the last day and the Relays.
After four races, Vermont (10,919)had a narrow 147 point lead over Maine (10,772), and New Hampshire was third (10,369).
Day three brought sunny skies and warm temps, a great day for racing and spectating.
The Vermont team leader from Fairfax, Fred Griffin, has had the winning formula for the relay teams for years. Stack one team to win and make all of the other teams as equal as possible, so they finish in a pack as close to the top as possible for maximum points.
The boy/girl relay would consist of four 2.5 kilometer legs, the first two skiers doing Classic Technique, and the last two skiing Freestyle Technique.
In earlier races, racers left in waves, this race saw all 53 athletes begin at once. In those conditions, chaos can easily ensue.
The Championship was up for grabs as the racers sprinted off the line at the sound of the gun. Hodgeman had proven that she was one of the best girls at the Championship and was chosen to be on the lead team.
She would trade the lead many times with a New Hampshire girl to keep the team dead even with New Hampshire going into the final leg.
Storms would ski on Vermont’s second team, which placed 11th 24:14. Quinn, on the fifth Vermont team, placed 19th in 24:39. Mashtare, on the 11th Vermont team, was 37th in 25:49.
Thatcher skied a strong leg on a relay team that didn’t have a fourth member and did not get a place.
The Relay scores would show that Griffin’s plan had worked. Vermont won the Relay (4,070) over Maine (3,860) and New Hampshire (3,670).
Final scores for the weekend: Vermont at 14,989 points; Maine at 14, 632; New Hampshire 14,039; Massachusetts 10,014; and New York 3,921.
Points were awarded for each race to the top 20 skiers from each team. Hodgeman earned enough points to be the 4th Vermont girl and the 8th girl on the weekend. Quinn was the 15th Vermonter in 65th, Mashtare was the 18th Vermonter in 76th, and Storms was the 21st Vermonter in 89th.
It was a great weekend of racing for these young stars who represented their schools, Franklin County and Vermont. They are five names to watch for the next two years.