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.
The twisting course of Mohawk have once again hosted a battle for the top spot for the boy’s in the Berkshires. The usual top ten skiers, minus Ric Donati (MG) who did not race, jumped at the chance to all ski together given the mass start format. The start itself, narrowing quickly into a downhill, was uncharacteristically non chaotic with only a small breakdown in the middle of the racers. Tobias Weed (NMH), Kent Yoshikawa (NHM), Willy Wright (A), Luke Sedor Protti (A), Jakin Miller (MG), Evan Arthur (MG), and Cameron Castonguay (MG) jostled for placement in the lead pack coming through the first kilometer. Jacob Adams (MG) was not far behind following a fall at the start.
The leaders stuck close through the first lap, with first place changing from skier to skier. In the fields of the second lap, Arthur and Miller attacked to try and get some space from the pack. In an unfortunate accident, one of Arthur’s baskets broke off causing him to decide to get a pole from his coach on the sideline. The time to get the new pole along with his now uneven pole heights hampered Arthur making him fall back. Yoshikawa, Weed, and Wright followed Jakin in his surge. Three quarters of the way through the second lap, Arthur received a better suited pole and passed Castonguay who had passed him before in the confusion.
The head four battled together throughout the rest of the race with Arthur almost fully catching up in the third lap. Miller, leading the entire race after his surge, managed to pull away on the final climb for his first league win (24:50). Behind him, Weed took second after a similar move to Miller’s (25:07) finishing ahead of Wright (25:11) and Arthur (25:20). Yoshikawa had to drop out in the third lap because he had started to feel sick. Almost a minute later, Castonguay (26:05) just barely edged out Adams (26:06) who had been gaining back time over the entire third lap.
Rounding out the top ten Protti (27:25) beat out Avery Smith (NMH; 27:27) in a final sprint for 7th. A little behind, Corban Miller (MG; 27:58) and Aidan Sandvik (M; 28:07) took 9th and 10th respectively.
Because the many JV racers moved up to the longer race, the Junior Varsity race was unusually spread, especially for the top ten finishers. The race was dominated Walker Niemeyer (MG; 18:25) taking an early lead. Behind him, Carter Lemaire (MG; 19:18) and Owen Tucker-Smith (MG; 19:26) worked together for most of the race until Lemaire attacked with about a half a kilometer to go, gapping Tucker-Smith for second. The next five were also dominated by Greylock with Finn Welch (19:38) at the helm. After Welch: Michael Maruk (19:44), Gabe Gerry (19:57), Julius Munemo (21:00), and Ezra Sutter (21:17) all finished strong. Topping off the top ten were NMH’s Louis Salz and Garrett Weil beating out another pack of three Greylock skiers.
Thanks to Coach Rayton and the crew from Mohawk for hosting and to the Mt. Greylock volunteers for all the race day work. There is no scheduled race for next weekend, which will hopefully allow snow to build up here in the Berkshires. If that does happen (do your snow dances, everyone) the first league classic race will be hosted at Notchview Reservation. See you all there!