That’s the time it takes for a skier to change a team’s outlook on a skiing race. It’s the mindset that allowed the Xaverian Brothers Alpine ski team to finish first and the Duxbury High School girls’ team second at the state races last season.
But after a successful year for both teams, Xaverian Brothers said goodbye to three key seniors who finished in the top 20 at states, and Duxbury bid farewell to two seniors who placed in the top 25.
So this year, according to common wisdom, would be a rebuilding season as younger skiers sharpened their skills and gained experience.
The skiers weren’t buying it.
“We have a young squad this season,’’ said Xaverian Brothers head coach Michael Davis, “so my expectations at the beginning of the year were to have fun and allow them to understand varsity skiing. In the first two races, we were 2-0 and that mindset went out the window.”
For this year’s state showdown, set for Wachusett Mountain in Princeton Tuesday, March 7, Xaverian will be bringing six skiers who ranked in the top 24 in the Mass Bay Ski League East: freshmen Lars Forsgren (7), Reed Abbott (14), Cam Tullie (15), Ryan Pitrus (21), senior captain Drew Klaubert (12) and eighth-grader Will Bertram (17). In addition, senior captain Kyle MacPhee (26) will serve as an alternate.
The Westwood-based school tied with Marblehead for the most qualified skiers at state in the Mass Bay Ski League East. Xaverian finished second in the regular season standings behind Marblehead, so its skiers look at the state race as an opportunity for revenge. And Tullie, for one, believes the team has the right stuff to take a shot.
“This year’s Hawks team is incredible regarding team chemistry and motivation for one another,” he said. “We became a little overconfident at the beginning of the season, and it worked against us as Marblehead took the lead and never looked back.”
The Hawks won the first two races, but then Marblehead won five straight. But by winning the final race of the regular season, Xaverian has gained a confidence boost going into the state race.
Forsgren and Klaubert are the only skiers who have participated at state in previous years, so they’ve assumed leadership roles for this one. The skiers say they’re not nervous about the showdown, in part because many compete on a club team on weekends to keep their skills sharp.
Balancing school and club teams, said Bertram, is easier than he thought, since the varsity events are all on weekdays and the club on weekends. The hardest part, he said, is balancing ski time with homework during the school year.
Davis, the Xaverian coach, tells his skiers to enjoy the moment.
“Coach Davis always tells us to have fun at the race and give it our best,” Forsgren said. “I think that’s the reason why we’ve had successful seasons throughout the past number of years, because he pushes us just right to race our best.”
Five of this year’s skiers will return next year, a prospect Davis relishes, as his team has the chance to be strong for the next two or three years. His team will be trying to earn its’ third Alpine skiing state title in five years.
Meanwhile, the Duxbury girls’ team qualified three highly ranked skiers for state: sophomores Hailey Champagne (4) and Hannah Quinn (24) and junior captain Kate McNulty (9). Since competing teams need a minimum of three skiers at state, it was a close call.
Still, Duxbury finished fourth in the regular season team standings behind Marblehead, Wellesley, and Dover/Sherborn. Head coach Brian Johnson said he hopes the individual skiers earn medals in the two events, which would translate to a top-10 finish as a team and earn a medal for Duxbury.
“This sport is focused heavily on the individual, which translates to the team score,” Johnson said. “I try to have my skiers focus on themselves, whether at team practices or in their club teams up north, because that should be the main focus for skiing.”
Champagne and McNulty, the younger Duxbury entrants, have competed with top skiers during the regular season and at their weekend club events, so they know what they’re up against at the state race.
Champagne has focused on the details of her races, Johnson said, allowing her to finish fifth or better in every race this season.
McNulty, the team leader and just a junior, goes out of her way to help the younger skiers, said Johnson.
“Next season looks bright for Duxbury,’’ said Johnson, “as we only lose one senior. We have a lot of young talent that will develop and be more dominant next season, which is exciting as a coach to see the growth in our program.”
Duxbury will be looking to finish in the top 10 for the fourth straight year at the Alpine skiing state race.