Mount Greylock, Wahconah Skiers Kick Off Season
DALTON, Mass. -- For most high school athletes, it has been a disorienting year of uncertainty and constantly shifting schedules.
For Nordic skiers, that’s every year.
But the area’s most weather-sensitive sport took a step toward normalcy on Saturday morning when the Wahconah cross country ski team hosted Mount Greylock.
And although the format and the rules each required some modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the snow was perfect and the smiles were plentiful as the Mounties took first in the boys and girls dual races.
The 2020 State Champion Mount Greylock boys were a perfect 10 in their first action of the 2021 season. Col McDermott led the way with a time of 18 minutes, 12 seconds over the 4-mile course.
On the girls side, Jacqueline Wells finished first in 21:08, ahead of Annie Miller, one of three freshmen in the Mounties’ five-girl varsity group.
Haley Crosier was the first Wahconah girl, placing fourth in 24:39 as the hosts fell, 26-11.
Wells said the outlet provided by skiing is needed now more than ever.
“I think, similar to cross country [running], we were all coming to the team as that place to find normalcy and place to find company,” she said. “And I think the sport itself and the exertion of it is great for everyone in this time and for mental health and also for each other.”
You would never know it to look at Wahconah’s campus on Saturday, but the weather has been nearly as challenging as the novel coronavirus for most of the winter.
“We’ve been doing a lot of preseason dry land training,” Wells said. “Our coaches are amazing at finding ways to make it fun -- to do tennis ball biathlon where you’re running, and we do mountain biking.
“We love to be on skis, but we also understand that that’s part of the sport in the Northeast this year.”
The high school season this year will be run differently. Unlike the usual carnival-like atmosphere with six or eight teams from around Western Mass and Connecticut converging on a site to compete, the meets will be more low-key. Mount Greylock and Wahconah were the only teams on the course Saturday, though the hope is that Hoosac Valley will be able to join the competition soon.
The course was quieter with fans told to stay home. And instead of waves that included skiers from all of the teams in attendance, the skiers went out in single-school cohorts, as many of the same student-athletes did in the fall, in order to create as much social distancing as possible.
The Wahconah boys were the first to hit the trail, and Fritz Sanders was the first to hit the finish line, crossing in 21:57 to place eighth overall.
Like everything else at Wahconah during this year of construction, the course layout was a little different, but it still took full advantage of the challenging hill that racers had to tackle twice in the course of competition.
“When we crossed the finish line, we were all talking and said how much we loved this course,” Wells said. “Obviously, we’re so grateful for how nice Wahconah got it in shape. But we love that you can see people on the corners so we’re not closely racing with people and it’s safe. But you pass a corner and someone is on the other side of the field and you see them.”
Boys top 10
1. Col McDermott (MG), 18:12; 2. Quinn McDermott (MG), 19:19; 3. Gabe Gerry (MG), 19:41; 4. Foster Savitsky (MG), 20:03; 5. Cedric Lemaire (MG), 20:06; 6. Teague Murphy (MG), 21:07; 7. Charlie McWeeny (MG), 21:42; 8. Fritz Sanders (W), 21:57; 9. Aidan Garcia (W), 22:05; 10. Brenna Andersen (W), 22:11.
Girls top 10
1. Jacqueline Wells (MG), 21:08; 2. Annie Miller (MG), 22:36; 3. Lily McDermott (MG), 23:31; 4. Haley Crosier (W), 24:39; 5. Juliann Lawson (MG), 25:51; 6. Olivia Langenheim (W), 26:01; 7. Quinn Walton (W), 26:20; 8. Erin Keating (MG), 27:02; 9. Julia Trager (W), 27:08; 10. Jocelyn Sommers (W), 27:09.