Improvements Seen in Young Ski Team

Published in the January 28, 2009 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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Sometimes a team has to get younger before it can get better. That may be the case for the Nashoba Regional alpine ski teams, whose lack of experience is offset by heaps of upside potential.

With the boys' and girls' squads having just three seniors and one junior between them, head coach Mike Gormley has been careful to keep his expectations for the teams in check. That said, Gormley likes what he's been seeing so far this season.

“Overall I'm just really impressed with some of these kids who have never raced or run gates before,” he said. “With each practice, you can see they're getting it more.”

The biggest surprise has been the girls' team, which finished third in each of the first three races of the season to earn a 9-6 record in the Mass Bay West league's Omega division. Senior captain Allison Wyand of Stow anchored the team in its first two races, both giant slalom events, with Stow freshman Rachel Peabody not far behind. In Thursday's race at Nashoba Valley, the first slalom event of the season, the two switched positions, with Peabody placing 10th in 33.30 and Wyand 12th in 34.91. Stow junior Shelby Sirois, sophomore Emily Aubuchon, Stow sophomore Lacey Kremer, and freshman Kat Malley round out the varsity lineup.

Wyand, a solid contributor on last year's varsity team, has really emerged this year, Gormley said.

“I've seen a huge improvement in her skiing this year,” he said. “She's gotten a lot more aggressive. If you're not aggressive and can't hold your line, that makes the difference between the kids who are in the top 10 and the kids who are further down.”

Peabody, a rare freshman with previous racing experience, has already served notice that she could be a dominant force in the league long before her senior year.

“I didn't seeded her first in the first two races, but after seeing how well she trained in slalom I felt it was time to put her up there,” Gormley said. “I felt she would be a very strong slalom skier, and that proved to be the case. She's really natural on skis. The whole upper body stays nice and quiet, and everything is done from the knees down. If we can get her to be a little more aggressive, she could be very very successful.”

If they continue at their current pace, the girls have a good chance to improve on last year's 17-13 record and fourth place league finish. New MIAA rules dictate that Nashoba must have three skiers in the top 12 of its league in order to compete as a team in the state meet, which will be held Feb. 24 in Charlemont. Any skiers who make the top 12, however, may compete as individuals.

Almost sure to be representing the boys' team in Charlemont is senior captain John Malley, who placed 28th in slalom and 18th in giant slalom at the 2008 state meet. Malley finished fourth at Thursday's slalom race with a time of 26.93, followed by Stow sophomore Nick Bateman—the only other member of the boys' team with varsity experience—in 14th place at 29.50. The boys' varsity squad also includes Stow senior Jeff Stokes, Stow sophomore Tim Albert, sophomore Peter Heislein, and Stow freshman Colin Bateman.

A fifth place team finish on Thursday brought the boys' record to 3-12 on the season. They won't come close to matching last year's 21-win season that qualified the team for the state meet, but they will be building a foundation for the future. This year's freshmen and sophomores should make the Chieftains an extremely deep and dangerous team, not just next season but also the season after that.

“The boys are definitely in a rebuilding program,” Gormley said. “The goal now is just to get better with each race, and that's what they're doing.”

Both Chieftains teams will try to improve on their giant slalom performances this Thursday at Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford. The top-seeded skiers will start their first runs at 3:30 pm.

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