NRHS Ski Team Shows Postseason Promise

Published in the February 06, 2008 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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It's been clear for a while now that senior Travis Johnson of Stow, the best downhill skier in the Mass Bay West Omega league, will represent Nashoba Regional at the all-state meet later this month. Chieftain junior John Malley, third best in the league, will be there too.

But thanks to a huge team win in Thursday's giant slalom event at Nashoba Valley, now there's a very real chance that all of the Nashoba boys will be skiing in the postseason. Slippery course conditions on an unseasonably warm day tripped up skiers from normally dominant Concord-Carlisle and Lincoln-Sudbury, allowing the steadier Chieftains to steal first place with 441 team points.

Credited with victories over each of the other seven teams at the event, the Chieftains improved their record to 15-7-2. Although they remain in fourth place in the league, they are now just two wins behind Algonquin (17-5-2) and Lincoln-Sudbury (17-7) with one race remaining in the season. Nashoba will need to be one of the top two teams in the league to qualify for state.

“It's actually really doable if everyone skis well,” said Stow senior and team captain Jesse Way.

Adding to the thrill of the Thursday's accomplishment—the first Chieftain team win this season—was that the skiers didn't know the results until they were on the bus headed back to Bolton. As he does every week, head coach Mike Gormley announced the teams' scores in reverse order, in this case saving the best news for last.

“We had thought throughout the day that we had a pretty good chance of finishing in the top two, and we were really hoping for that. But we didn't know for sure until we were on the bus,” Way said. “As soon as we heard that we weren't second, we just went wild.”

The girls' team, for its part, saw its postseason hopes fall by the wayside Thursday following a fourth place finish (422 points). Like the boys, the Chieftain girls are in fourth place in the league, but with a record of 14-10 even a perfect performance in the final race of the season will do no better than tie either of the top two teams, Lincoln-Sudbury or Concord-Carlisle (each at 20-4).

After finishing third in each of the first two races of the season, the girls had a realistic shot at qualifying for the state meet heading into the Jan. 24 slalom event. Thanks to a transportation snafu on that day, however, the Nashoba skiers arrived after the competition had begun and had no time to warm up or inspect the course before racing.

“Course inspection is especially important for slalom,” Gormley said. “There are all kinds of gates on the hill, so you really have to know what's coming. Our kids were skiing it blind.”

That Johnson (who finished first), Malley (third) and girls' team captain Megan Powell (second) still managed to ski well is a testament to their ability and experience, Gormley said, but the middle-tier skiers were more adversely affected by the situation.

Both Chieftain alpine teams have benefited from the experience and leadership of returning upperclassmen, with five seniors on the boys' team (Johnson, Way, Nick Sirois of Stow, Reed Tucker, and James Gold) and three on the girls' team (Powell, Sarah Brown and Catherine Philbin). The three top skiers raced at the state competition last year, with Johnson finishing 24th in the giant slalom, Powell finishing 25th in the slalom, and Malley finishing 41st in the giant slalom and 42nd in the slalom.

Next year's teams will be considerably younger, as the only current juniors are Malley, Jeff Stokes, and Allison Wyand of Stow. In their defense, however, the underclassmen have made solid contributions this season, particularly for the girls' team. Freshmen Emily Aubuchon (in 16th place in the league after four races), Shelby Sirois (22nd), and Lacey Kremer (26th) have all been skiing at the varsity level for the girls' team, as has classmate Nick Bateman (30th) on the boys' side. (Sirois and Kremer are both from Stow.)

“We have a nice mix right now,” Gormley said.

The final race of the regular season for both the boys' and girls' teams will be on a slalom course at Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford. The top-seeded skiers will start at 3:30 p.m.

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239