After opening the season with three competitions to find the best skier, this Saturday provided the setting to find the best racer. Skiing and racing can be two different things. Wave starts test your skiing ability and “guts” as you are often out on the course by yourself grinding just as hard as you dare over the 5k and finding out later how you performed against the competition. Mass starts can be a completely different beast altogether. Will you take the lead and push the tempo? Will you be able to hang on to the competition just in front of you? Racing in a mass start involves as much strategy and guile as it does technique and fortitude. Welcome back mass start racing!
After graciously hosting in a generally snow-less environment last week, Mohawk Trail Regional would again be the sight of this weeks’ test. Instead of icy conditions, today would be about who had the legs in the slush. Each school would place their top eight racers on varsity, with an open category for any racers not considered top eight for their school still eligible to compete.
The girls’ mass start got off well with only minor carnage at the back end of the opening straightaway. Brandi Gill (MG) and Alice Huth (LX) were out front at the first downhill with a long line of pursuers that became a solid pack through the opening field. By the first uphill, Gill and Huth nurtured a small gap that would quickly close as Margo Smith (MG), Clarissa Pollard (MOH), Lilly Wells (MOH), Emma Jourdain (LX), and Emma Polumbo (MG) drew back up to the two leaders through the ups and downs of the middle field.
It appeared that the Mt. Greylock duo of Gill and Smith might break away to begin the second lap but as other contenders slowly slipped away, Jourdain would claw her way back to create a lead pack of three. Alice Huth would remain a solo chaser through the second lap as the pack that now included Helen Greenfield (MG), Marion Hugh (LX) and Maggie Sorrentino chased behind her. Smith took over the lead of the front trio midway through the lap with Gill and Jourdain just behind.
As the third and final lap began, Gill took advantage of the flat terrain to regain the lead and create the decisive gap needed to win the race. She would not be directly challenged for the lead again as she pushed to her third win of the season and her third straight. Smith and Jourdain, however, were not finished with their battle. Smith would lead throughout the remainder of the sweeping climbs and descents until the final climb. Jourdain demonstrated a very strong V1 technique in pushing past Smith and creating the space she would hold through the finish for her strongest result of the season (2nd) and her first podium. Smith, the Heidi Weng of the Berkshire County league, was yet again on the podium with another top three result.
After Smith, Greenfield would stretch away from the pack to finish 4th; her first top five result. Alice Huth would be a mere 17 seconds back from Greenfield with yet another strong showing in 5th. Only one minute would separate skiers five through 10 on the day as Wells, Marion Huth, Polumbo, Pollard and Sorrentino rounded out the place winners.
The Mt. Greylock girls managed to win again and place skiers high in the standings again, but the gap between first and second was narrowed considerably. The Mounties scored a seemingly normal 16 points on the day with four skiers in the top eight. The Lenox Millionaires, however, demonstrated that they will be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch by scoring a mere 24 points with four skiers in the top 10. Lenox jumped back over Mohawk in finishing second this week. Mohawk and NMH finished tied on the podium for third with 70 points apiece.
Thanks to Coach Rayton and the crew from Mohawk for hosting and to the Mt. Greylock volunteers for all the race day work. Great job, everyone.
See you in two weeks!