A week in advance of the state Nordic ski championships, Concord-Carlisle coach Jeff Campbell looked at the field for the boys’ and girls’ races and could not even begin to predict a winner.
Campbell would love to see his Patriots repeat on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at Prospect Mountain in Woodford, Vt., after the boys cruised to the title in 2019 and the girls shared the crown with Mount Greylock. But there is something about the balance across the state – and especially within the two Eastern Mass. leagues that compete out of Weston Ski Track – that has him enthused about this year, and the state of Nordic racing in the region.
“It’s really up for grabs,” said Campbell, whose team graduated its four scorers from last year’s state boys’ champion and finished second to Winchester in the Mass. Bay Ski League West this winter. “There is a lot of strength in the girls’ races this year. It’s just a lot more level across the state.”
Campbell said he hopes the C-C girls will be in the mix with Mount Greylock and Lenox. The team has three of its top four skiers back in junior Ella Nichol, sophomore Isabella Synnestvedt, and sophomore Ellie Sablak. Campbell said if all three can hit top 15, then the Patriots should be in the mix.
Wayland’s Tali Wong won the final league event on Feb. 12 with Nichol second, Synnestvedt third, Sablak fourth, Winchester’s Katie Lew fifth, and Lincoln-Sudbury’s Emily Appleby sixth. C-C edged Winchester, 464-459, in the girls’ team scoring.
“All the coaches have talked this year about how it’s been wonderful to have so many strong teams,” Campbell said. “You are seeing a lot of the races go down to the third, fourth, and fifth skiers.”
Winchester’s Aidan Kimberley was the boys’ winner on Feb. 12, followed by Concord-Carlisle’s William Parker, Billy Caddoo (Wayland), Colin McGinn (Westford), Luke Chamberlin (Westford), and Reed Kendall (Winchester).
“At the start of the year I wasn’t staying with [Kimberley] as well,” said Parker, a senior captain. “But as the season has gone on I’ve been right there with him even if he would always get me at the end. We have a lot of new faces on the team and it’s been great to see the young kids get better and better.”
Winchester climbed to the top of the league on the boys’ side with a slight gap to Concord-Carlisle and Westford Academy. Dover-Sherborn, Newton North, and Wellesley are among the top contenders out of Mass. Bay Ski League East.
“It’s been exciting in Mass. Bay West to have so many teams in contention,” Winchester coach Scott Carlson said. “Winchester and Concord-Carlisle did well. But Westford boys and Acton-Boxborough girls were both strong. Then you have a smaller team from Natick and our team is always helping them out with partners to train with and asking what we can do for them.”
Carlson said that is part of what makes Nordic skiing unlike any other sport in the state. While many team sports only see each other for scrimmages or games, and some sports like indoor track and field have league-wide competitions each week, skiers in the Mass. Bay Ski Leagues will see each other nearly every day at the Leo J. Martin Golf Course for practice.
“You end up knowing everyone,” Carlson said. “The coaches are the same way. We don’t keep secrets from each other. We love to talk with each other and share strategies. That’s why I like to call it my winter family.”
While the C-C program has had strong numbers for 40 years, Winchester began with just three boys in 2010. The Sachems added two girls the next year and have steadily built until this season when the team capped out at the 48 boys and girls able to fit on one bus to practices and meets.
“We’re fortunate now that we get a lot of athletes from other sports who want to try it,” Carlson said. “We get kids from the cross-country [running] team, the swim team, and the soccer team who want to learn a sport where they can have a good time and get better. They are all competitive enough that they will find a way to get better.”
Campbell said this winter has provided a weather test unlike any he’s seen in his seven years as coach at C-C. While skiers were able to get right out on the Weston course for a couple of weeks in early December, the warm January put a strain on the Weston track. Snow was completely gone for a week after the temperature hit a record 74 degrees on Jan. 12.
“The crew over there performs miracles with what they have,” Campbell said. “Every time the temperature goes below freezing they are making snow. The weather has been horrible, but it hasn’t really affected our ability to train and race.”
“The kids have handled it well. It is definitely a team that’s lived up to the tradition here.”
Scott Souza can be reached at ScottSouza@journalist.com.