Last week the Cardigan Mountain Nordic Team competed in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC) Championships on the Cougars’ home course at Green Woodlands, just 15 minutes from campus. While most of the terrain at Green Woodlands is rolling and comfortable for any level skier, the foundation that runs the trail system has also developed two 2.5-kilometer race loops that were designed by former Dartmouth ski coach and Olympic biathlete John Morton, who currently designs courses internationally for Morton Trails. In other words, our boys can proudly say they have raced on a course that meets International Ski Federation Homologation (Olympic) standards!
The NEPSAC championships bring together some of the best nordic skiers from the top New England prep schools. And while that may seem intimidating to most, the Cardigan boys held their own against their much older competitors. Schools present included Andover, Holderness, Proctor, Rivers, Belmont Hill, Gould Academy, Dublin, Berkshire, and Northfield Mount Hermon.
In the morning, all nine of the Cougar nordic skiers completed the five-kilometer skate race with the B athletes. As the mass start commenced, the boys scrambled to maneuver themselves into a good position before heading into the woods. After a series of tough uphills, the Cougars faced a formidable downhill with multiple sharp corners alternately rutted with icy patches and piled with slushy snow, making it difficult to turn on their skinny skis. Fortunately, Coach Nina Silitch P’19,’21 was there to keep the boys mentally focussed and physically energized, and they continued into the second half of the race at a steady pace.
The course then took the boys through the stadium where spectators cheered them on with cow bells and words of encouragement. But the race wasn’t over and the Cardigan boys went into the woods for a second time, facing more hills and more sharp turns. The course finally delivered them back into the stadium and through the finish, where Coach Wilkinson waited for them with a smile and a fist bump. Sam Wang ’20 had the fastest Cardigan time of the day with Reaghan Moore ’22 following closely behind. Jeffrey Song ’20 was also with the lead group of Cardigan boys.
After a well-deserved rest and a bit of lunch, the boys were back out on the course in the afternoon for a 4 x 2-kilometer classic relay. All the Cougar skiers competed in this fun team-spirited relay, which was a great way to end the competition season. Between snowball fights and runs for hot cocoa, the boys cheered each other on until the very last skier crossed the finish line.
The Cardigan coaches are extremely proud of the incredible progress the Cougars made this season. Many were new to nordic skiing at the beginning of the season and, to be able to finish a five-kilometer race on a technical, olympic-grade course is quite a feat. The returning Cougars were the team scorers and made significant strides in both technique and fitness. The race was a celebration of all the progress these athletes have made this year. Well done!