This weekend was the completion of the Eastern Cup Series. It brought excitement and a little sadness that the season is winding down. Saturday was the skate race at Oak Hill in Hanover, NH. This place smells of deep ski tradition and it has a course to match. The course was as fast as I've ever seen it, tight corduroy, steep uphills, with rocket fast and twisty downhills. The course was tricky as the former Olympian who won the men's race, took a fall on the first hairpin turn. Adele Espy, Tara Humphries, her brother Sam, and Sarah Becker raced.
Tara and Sarah are to be commended on their willingness to push their comfort level. They are eighth graders and jumping into an Eastern Cup is pretty scary. They both skied great and they appeared to enjoy themselves.
Sam came into the weekend ranked seventh in the J2 field. The top six are invited to represent New England on the Junior Olympic team in California in a few weeks. There was pressure on Sam but he managed it well. He finished the race in fifth place, fourth against the New England complement. This set him up well for Sunday and I think everyone started to breath a little easier with his great finish.
Saturday's highlight was Adele Espy's amazing race. Two years ago she was on the bubble of making the JO team. She raced at Hanover with a broken rib and a cough that could be heard for miles. One mother hugged her that day which would have brought anyone with a broken rib to their knees. Despite the elements on that day two years ago, she had a great race. That race two years ago brought Adele to a new level of skiing and toughness. This year she was the class of the field, winning the race by 44 seconds. She skied the course with fierce determination, grit, and poise. It was inspiring for everyone in attendance!
On Sunday, the race venue moved to Gunstock ski area. This was a classic race that took place on a 2.75k loop with long sweeping hills. The J2's did two loops and the J1's did 4 loops. The day was humid with a high of around 35 degrees and snow forecasted. All indicators were pointing to a waxing disaster. Fortunately, everything seemed to fall into place. The conditions stayed conducive for hard wax, the tracks were firm, and the course held together well.
Sunday's highlight was Sam's second fifth place finish of the weekend, securing the final spot on the J2 New England Junior National team. Sam has worked really hard to make this happen. He set his expectations high and has had a strong work ethic that have made his goals come to fruition.
Nate Niles also joined us on Sunday, fresh off of two second place performances at the State Meets this week. He had a great race on Sunday and built some great momentum going into next year.
The future of Maine Coast Nordic was well represented on Sunday. Tara Humphries, Ian Moore, and Kellan Humphries all raced. Tara was tired, Ian was not feeling well, and Kellan was feeling pretty nervous (though he never admitted this!) They all overcame their fears and went for it! As J3's, younger than everyone in the field, they all skied like lions. They were all pleased with their performances and will come back to Southern Maine better skiers.
Watching the kids ski well this year, weather it's a spot on the Junior World Team, or a top twenty-five spot in the State Meet, has been exciting. It's been a great season!
The next few weeks will be pretty busy for me. I'll be at the Bill Koch Festival next weekend and I''ll be coaching with the New England Team in Truckee from March 6-16th.
This week I have practices on Monday and Wednesday. We'll meet at the Oak Hill trailhead at Pineland from 3:30-5:00. We'll skate both days.
Tara and Sarah at the race on Saturday
Sam has gotten a lot of good comments about his technique
Adele at the top of the long hill on Saturday
Adele at the start of Saturday, powerful
Nate in the woods today, what a trooper after racing in Rumford Saturday
Ian Moore giving it his all
Special Thanks to Tara Humphries Action Photography