By Ellen Oliver
With just two races under their belt, the Nashoba alpine ski team is poised to increase their competitiveness as they enter the slalom portion of the six-race season. “It’s a young crowd,” said Coach Mike Gormley. The boys’ team has six freshmen, the girls’ four, with three seniors total to round out the ranks.
The top racer for the girls’ team is junior captain Jenna Peabody, who has placed sixth and seventh respectively in the first two races. “I know she’s not happy,” said Gormley. “The competition is tough this year. I know she’ll do fine and have some top finishes.” The competition is coming from a known source, an aggressive Lunenburg squad. In the first two races, skiers from Lunenburg took three of the top five places in the first two races.
Joining Peabody at the top of the Nashoba girls team is junior Flora Tierney and freshman Tess Anderson, two Nashoba skiers Coach Gormley has identified as emerging talents. Gormley said Tierney has developed into a reliable number two racer for the team. “Flora’s doing very well. She’s a lot more aggressive this year.”
As for Anderson, Gormley said she’s part of the future of the team. “She’ll be a strong skier for us. She’s very technical on her skis,” he said.
Gormley also said two seniors, Delaney Douglas and Melanie Nelson, have been consistent presences on the team. Douglas, who is a four year racer, said the motivation for her is personal. “For me, I want to beat my own score, I’m not competing against someone else,” she explained. Douglas is a good example of the improvements Gormley sees as the season gets underway. Douglas set a new personal time in last Thursday’s Giant Slalom race with a 26.83 finish.
The boys’ team is captained by senior Jay Harvey, who is also the team’s number one skier. The coach pointed to the friendly skirmish between sophomores Drew Anderson and Shawn Conlin to round out Nashoba’s top three. “Drew is skiing aggressively and very well. He and Shawn are very close,” said Gormley. “They will be battling for the number two spot.”
Currently, the girls stand at sixth (823 points) in the eight team Omega Division and the boys are eighth with 579 points. The boys score reflects the loss of Harvey, who did not compete in the first race of the season. The top 16 racers in each division qualify for states, plus four alternates, giving the top 20 a chance to extend their season.
Although it is early, Peabody at seventh is most likely assured a place again in the states, and Tierney is currently on the bubble at 23rd. It looks like Harvey is ready to join Peabody, sitting at 17th place in the boys standings.
The team has only had three practices on snow, but Gormley said his young skiers made tremendous improvements in a short time. “I’ve been really pleased with what I saw. They are definitely developing,” he said. “In the two hours I had them on the course, I saw huge improvements. They were able to engage the skis better.”
Gormley is confident that if his young talented skiers stick with the team, Nashoba can push a team like Lunenburg from dominance. “A lot are new to racing and hopefully they will stick with it. They are working hard and training hard, getting the feel for racing.”
The alpine ski program, like some other winter sports, has seen its numbers decrease over the years. “There are fewer kids racing,” acknowledged Gormley. “It’s expensive.” But for those interested, Gormley said there are some skiers using park skis. “They’d be better with better skis, but it gives them a chance to try it.”
Douglas said racing has a benefit to her life off the slopes. “It made my confidence go up skiing with my family,” she said. “Working with my coach to figure out how to ski better, it increased my confidence outside of skiing, too.”