J2 Championships

Last weekend wrapped up the U16 Championships, in Fort Kent. I went as head coach, with Kathy, Maddy, Peter Rayton, Hilary Greene, Hiram Greene, Ryan Toupence, Kiersten Toupence, and Chris Li as my awesome team.  We all took a bus to get there (more on that later), and had a wonderful few days up in the County. That's Aroostook County, for those of you who haven't experienced it.  Fort Kent did a great job with the event, and the racing was fast, furious, and fair.  The Massachusetts Team did pretty well, but the CSUers on the team truly shined. I was very proud to watch all that hard work from the previous 11 months pay off.  Even those who didn't quite meet their outcome goals learned a ton, and appeared to be having a wonderful time.  Each race is just a stepping stone for the next, regardless of the outcome.  

This is the view from the bus in the parking lot in Boxboro, before we drove north. Everyone is happy and smiling and excited.

Up north.

Skate race
The first races of the weekend were the 5k skate races, on Friday afternoon.  Conditions were good, slightly transformed snow that made everything really fast, and the Fort Kent courses are great, rewarding fitness and good skiing.  The kids rose to the challenge, and posted some good results - for the girls, Hannah snuck onto the podium in 3rd, Madeleine took 7th, and Violet leapt into 16th as a first-year J2. Emily, Lydia, and Ella all broke into the top 50, which is great for first-years.  Rebecca managed to pull her quad muscle, but still finished in 55th, displaying great resiliency. Katherine held her own in 72nd, followed by Lucy in 78th and Natalie in 92nd. Chloe unfortunately had an asthma attack, but we had a good discussion on how to help ward those off in the future.  Tough conditions for asthma with the cold air. For the boys, James led the way in 6th, followed closely by Oliver in 8th and Jacob in 12th. Jackson was rebounding from a cold, and still managed 23rd, and Connor popped a top-40, finish 39th! Sam skied well, finishing 54th, followed by his compatriot first-year J2s with Kevin in 77th, Thor in 83rd, and Isaac in 92nd.  Lots of very fast skiers at this race!

Classic race
Saturday morning was pretty chilly for the classic race, but it warmed up nicely by the afternoon, leading to some lounging about in the sun, as the girls took my words to heart, and got off their feet between the two races.  It was so nice to be waxing with hardwax (Toko red, for the interested waxing nerds) in mid-March!  In the girls race, we didn't have the same calibre of results as in the skate, with Hannah, Madeleine, and Violet all slipping back a few places.  Emily and Rebecca finished right next to each other in 35th and 36th, though!  Lydia skied to a consistent top-50, and Katherine had a great race, moving all the way up to 54th, followed right behind by Ella in 55th - Ella had never classic skied before this year!  Chloe got a handle on her asthma, and managed to finish the race comfortably ahead of her pal Lucy.  Emma also finished the race, despite her wrist hurting, and Natalie skied very well too.

On the boys' side, the CSUers showed that they've been paying attention to the how-to-classic-ski manual, putting James in 2nd and Jacob in 5th!  Impressive results, but their teammates also performed well, with Oliver in 20th and Jackson in 23rd, followed by Sam in 51st, and Kevin and Connor in 62nd and 63rd. Thor moved up to 76th, and Isaac closed on one of his competitors.

Skate sprint
In the afternoon, the skiers raced a 1.2km skate sprint. This was a one-and-done sort of deal, with waves of 4-5 skiers (there weren't full contingents of midwestern skiers, so some of the later waves only had 4 skiers instead of 5) starting every 30 seconds.  Your overall time is what counts, but having a wave start does give you some sense of how you're doing.  I'm getting tired of listing all the results, because you can look them up, but I have to give a shout-out to the boys for putting three in the top 10! Jackson took the silver medal, Jacob was 6th, and Oliver 10th! We continued to show better results all the way down the list, and I was really impressed with the speed, power, and finesse these guys and gals were demonstrating.

In the girls race, Hannah just snuck into 10th, and Lydia and Emily both popped great races, making the first page of the results. Lydia's first top-30! It was exciting to watch so many of my Massachusetts skiers leading their waves over the bridge and into the woods. Lucy and Chloe also both deserve a shout-out, leaping up the results list into 56th and 58th, huge improvements over the distance races! Emma not only finished the race, but also put on a good show, leading her wave for most of the race, and moving way up the results list.

The final race of the weekend was the relay. This was mixed-technique, mixed-gender, going classic-girl, classic-boy, skate-girl, skate-boy.  This is always my favorite event to watch, and our teams skied great. The first team, consisting of Madeleine, James, Hannah, and Oliver, skied into 2nd place overall! Very exciting.  Our second relay team also busted into the top 10, in 8th place (Niku, Jacob, Violet, and Jackson).  Our other teams skied really well, and I loved watching and cheering for everyone.  I saw some really gutsy skiing out there, with the athletes laying it all on the line and seeing what they've got to give.

In the overall, we had some stellar results, as you'd guess from the consistency that these athletes demonstrated over the weekend.  Three top-20s for the girls, with Hannah (5th), Madeleine (18th), and Violet (20th)! Emily's consistency got her into 35th, followed closely by Lydia in 37th. Wait, I wasn't going to report all the results.  Go look it up! For the boys, I've got to give a shout-out to James (6th) and Jacob (7th), for their super consistent skiing all weekend.  Oliver (13th) and Jackson (15th) also made it into the top 15! Boys overall.

For all the results, go here.

Coach Maddy enjoying lunch in the sunshine.

James: more excited by a silver medal, or bagged lunch?

Coach Kathy watching the sprints from VIP positioning.

Three CSU gentlemen in the top 10 for the sprint.

I didn't know that rooms could get this messy.

When you do the room check at night, they're generally all empty until you find all 42 kids in a single room, having a dance party. Watching this room empty out was like watching a clown car.

Team Massachusetts!

Silver medal relay team, made up of CSUers!

So then we tried to go home, and the bus couldn't quite handle the snow that was falling. We got stuck on a few hills, tried repeatedly on one of them, and ultimately got stranded in Presque Isle (after four hours of driving) in a mall, with the bus stuck in the parking lot, waiting for a tow truck to un-stick the bus, and some plows to clear the roads a bit. We were worried we'd have to spend the night, but luckily it stopped snowing and the roads were cleared well enough for us to safely make it home. Huge thank you to Patti, the owner of the mall, who kept it open an extra 3 hours while we waited out the storm. Not only was she super friendly and helpful, but she bought us all Chinese dinner as we waited. She's what we call a travel angel.

The boys found some all-natural snacks.

One of the attempts to help out the bus.

A rousing game of duck duck goose while hanging out at the mall.

All in all, it was a great trip up to the County. I saw some great racing, I saw people learn how to deal with not-such-great racing, and the weekend was run superbly by the organizers.  I could have done without the 5:30am arrival at my house, but hey, we play a winter sport, and sometimes weather happens in winter.  Everyone made it home safely, and a good time was had by all.  Thank you Team Massachusetts for being so awesome, and good luck at EHS!

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