2/22-23 - State Championships at Black Mountain
The Portland Nordic team had a great showing at the Maine Principals Association’s Class A State Championships at Black Mountain on February 22nd and 23rd. A season of focused training, hard fought races and a team community focused on keeping it fun brought the Portland Nordic high school skiers to new heights.
The format for states this year was new in that it would utilize a Pursuit format. In this manner the classic races on Thursday would have a traditional 15 second interval start. But the Freestyle (skate) races on Friday would start with a Pursuit format based on the times of the skiers from the classic race. For example since the winner of the Men’s classic race come in only 1.4 seconds ahead of the second place skier, in the Freestyle race the 2nd place skier would start 1.4 seconds behind the first skier and so on. In this format if the 2nd skier passes the first skier the second skier now has a better combined time (of the Classic and Freestyle times) and can win the overall Pursuit (combined) time title. This format made for some high drama since races to the finish line had real meaning similar to a mass start. This also meant that instead of simply a classic champion and a skate champion there would now also be a Pursuit overall champion.
The classic races started with the women on Thursday afternoon. In a breakout performance Deering High junior Grace Tumavicus came in 2nd only to Morse’s Jenny Wilbraham. Grace was 22 seconds ahead of the next competitor, Mt. Blue’s Meg Charles. Deering Freshman Sierra Aponte-Clark was next of the Portland Nordic skiers in 7th, with Portland High sophomore Elizabeth Thomas 13 seconds behind her in 10th place. Morgan Aponte-Clark (a Deering senior) was 13th and the final scoring skier for Deering was freshman Ella Raymond in 16th. With all the Deering skiers being in the top 16 the girls were solidly in 2nd place just behind Fryeburg by 3 points. Unlike in the middle school competitions Portland Nordic skiers can not score as a Portland Nordic team. They can only score for their high school.
The boys skied next with Portland High sophomore Liam Niles matching Grace’s performance and placing 2nd in the classic race. Liam missed the top spot by only 1.4 seconds. He and Deering team mate Peter Jordan (senior) had the top two times through most of the race. As competitors finished they watched the results to see if their times would hold. Late in the race Roy Varney from Leavitt High School put up the better time to push Liam and Peter down to second and third. William Jordan, sophomore from Deering came in 10th. Portland team mates Ezra Flint and Robbie Sheils had strong performances coming in 14th and 16th respectively. Portland Nordic skier Michael Luna (junior from Cheverus) came in 50th and rounding out Portland High’s scoring skiers was Kieran Elliot in 57th.
Friday started early for the Class A boys. Due to a scheduling snafu with the Class A Alpine races the boys races had to be moved up to a 9am start. With the pursuit format Liam Niles started 1.4 seconds behind the classic race winner Roy Varney. Next to start was Peter Jordan almost 40 seconds behind Liam but closely followed by 4 other skiers starting within 10 seconds to put some pressure on Peter to hold his position. In the end this appeared to inspire Peter to an outstanding performance. He pushed ahead of his pack by 20 plus seconds and made up almost all of the 40 seconds he started behind Roy Varney to end up only 6 seconds behind him. Liam Niles passed Roy Varney at the start of the first long hill and did not look back. Liam won the State Class A pursuit title by 14 seconds with Roy Varney second and Peter third. Ezra Flint moved up from his start at 14th and came in 12th in the Pursuit. Robbie Sheils held his position at 16th and Kieran Elliot moved up to 56th from 57th. Cheverus’ Michael Luna was 52nd. Portland High School was the only Portland Nordic team with enough skiers to score as a team and came in 4th overall.
Separating out the Freestyle/skate race times also resulted in the Men’s Freestyle Race standings. Peter’s extraordinary push put him almost on the top of the Freestyle race podium. Peter was second to Falmouth’s Ethan Livingood by only 1.6 seconds. Liam Niles was 4th, Ezra Flint had a stellar performance to put him in 5th, Robbie Sheils was 18th, Michael Luna 54th and Kieran Elliot 53rd. Peter’s strong performance made him the only Portland Nordic skier to land atop the Podium (places 1 through 3) in Classic, Freestyle, and Pursuit.
The Women’s Freestyle Pursuit started with Deering needing to hold on to their positions and try to move up against Fryeburg to burst their three point bubble in the team standings. This was looked at as a tough task since multiple Deering skiers are traditionally better at classic than skate. But all the Portland Nordic women beat expectations and Deering was trending ahead as the last few scoring skiers were crossing the line. Yet it was still unknown since it was so close. When the last scoring Fryeburg skier (Sasha Maguire) was in the last stretch she sprinted hard and beat her competitor by a half second. This gave Fryeburg the point they needed to beat Deering 38-39 and turn back the Deering come from behind. Grace Tumavicus led Deering coming in 5th in the combined Pursuit times, Sierra Aponte-Clark came in 7th holding her position, Ella Raymond jumped up with a strong Freestyle portion of the race and moved up from 16th to 13th and Morgan Aponte-Clark battled through a painful ankle issue to get 14th place. Portland High skier Elizabeth Thomas also fared well in the overall Pursuit standings getting 12th overall.
The Women’s Freestyle awards saw 2 Portland Nordic skiers in the top 10 and all at 15th or above. Sierra Aponte-Clark was 6th, Grace Tumavicus was 8th, Ella Raymond with her hard work that moved her so far up in the Pursuit standings was 12th, Elizabeth Thomas was 14th and Morgan Aponte-Clark was 15th.
Over the 2 days Portland Nordic had 17 top ten finishes across the 3 award categories by gender (Classic, Freestyle, and Pursuit). Of those 17 top ten finishes 6 were top 3 (podium) finishes. One was a state championship in the men’s Pursuit. And the Deering girls finished second as a team for Class A. With only 3 graduating seniors Portland Nordic is hopeful for equally impressive results next year.
Most are looking forward to keeping their team together for a few more weeks through the Eastern High School Championships and the U16 Eastern High School Championships. Though many have formed friendships over the last few years that will last a lifetime.
Photos courtesy of lissythomasphoto.com.
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