Nordic skiing is more than just a sport to some.
For the skiers on the undefeated Concord-Carlisle Nordic team, it’s a family. And for a select few within that program, it’s the means to carrying the mantle of a rich legacy.
Concord-Carlisle junior Henry Johnstone’s grandfather Dusty coached the C-C Nordic team for about 10 years. His uncle Scott was a member of the school’s last state championship team in 1983.
Henry’s father, Stuart, skied for C-C as well as Middlebury College before returning to Carlisle, where he runs the Great Brook Ski Touring Center, established by Dusty in 1982. His mother, Catherine, is in her third year as an assistant coach at C-C.
And Hans Johnstone — Henry’s uncle — competed in the Nordic combined event, which includes ski jumping and Nordic racing, in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Now Henry is following in his footsteps, competing in the Nordic combined Junior Nationals which began Feb. 19 in Anchorage, after winning the U-16 team relay with Evan Nichols of Lyme, N.H., at Junior Nationals last year.
Henry Johnstone, who said he began skiing as soon as he could walk, helped introduce two classmates to the sport that he had grown up loving.
Fellow juniors Alex Burt and Ayden Nichol began training at Great Brook with the Johnstones in third grade. Their passion for Nordic slowly grew while competing in the Eastern Mass “Bill Koch League,” run by the New England Nordic Ski Association.
Now they, along with Henry, form a terrific trio which has helped C-C go undefeated en route to a Dual County League title.
It was the first time in over a decade that both the C-C girls’ and boys’ Nordic teams went undefeated in league play. Jeff Campbell, in his fifth year as coach of both teams, has high hopes for this year’s group.
“Those three have grown up together and they’ve been around the circuit a long time,” said Campbell of his trio of juniors. “On any given day, they’re 15 seconds apart from each other, and there’s a healthy spirit of competition amongst the team thanks to that.”
After finishing second at least year’s state championships, C-C has designs on a combined first-place finish in the 2018 state finals meet, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27 and Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Notchview Reservation in Windsor.
Standing in the way is Western Mass powerhouse Mount Greylock, which has taken home the last seven boys’ state titles, and the last two on the two girls’ side as well.
“Since we were freshman, it’s been the expectation that we could be the ones to beat Greylock,” said Nichol. “Mostly, the pressure comes from ourselves. When we came to the team, we were thinking that by the time we’re seniors, we could win this thing.”
According to their coach, Nichol, Burt, and Johnstone have all made tremendous strides this year as the leaders of an incredibly deep team.
The trio swept the podium in conference meets on Jan. 9 and Jan. 23, and led the way as C-C placed five in the top 11 in the DCL finale on Feb. 6.
Individually, Nichol finished seventh, Johnstone was 12th, and Burt 31st in last year’s state meet.
But with Burt showing significant improvement — finishing first in the individual league standings this season — the trio could all place within the top 10 this year.
“Alex [Burt] has really broken through this year,” said Campbell. “He’s been working out like crazy and has improved a great deal. He always had the technique. He just finally got the fitness up to speed, and now he’s our strongest racer.”
And the boys aren’t the only ones excelling on the ski track.
C-C junior Phoebe Meyerson is coming off a 10th-place finish in last year’s state meet and is primed for improvement after finishing third in the DCL final on Feb. 6.
The youngest of four siblings who all skied competitively for C-C, Meyerson considered giving up the sport in middle school, but felt swayed by her family’s history.
“That was definitely part of the reason I went back to Nordic,” said Meyerson. “I had seen all my siblings go through it, and they seemed to enjoy it so much, so I decided to give it another try.”
Nichol’s sister Ella is also excelling on the track, but he doesn’t just share his passion for the sport with blood relatives.
He volunteers every week during the season with Youth Enrichment Services, a nonprofit organization which buses kids from Boston’s inner city to train at Weston Ski Center.
“It’s great to see these kids becoming stronger skiers,” Nichol said of his pupils. “It’s a testament to what we love about this sport.”Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.