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Harwood boys' and girls' Nordic teams ended their respective seasons on a high note at the Vermont State Nordic Ski Championships. Both teams placed third in both classic and freestyle races.
Below is a summary of both the freestyle and classic state meets:
Rikert Nordic Center, Ripton, Vermont – February 20, 2014, Freestyle
Boys were led by senior Caleb Kessler (7). He was closely followed by teammate sophomore Phillip Hekeler (8). Freshman Noah Eckstein was 14th and senior Brennan Degen placed 28th. The freestyle relay team of Kessler, Eckstein, Degen and Hekeler outsprinted a dozen teams to place an impressive third.
Grace Butler led the Harwood girls with an impressive second-place finish. Grace's time of 15:52 was only 16 seconds off of winner Carmen Bango of Woodstock. The race was a celebration for the diminutive senior. "Grace was coming off an illness last year and struggled at the state meet in 2013," said Harwood Nordic coach John Kerrigan. Freshman upstart Madeline Strasser placed an outstanding sixth to be closely followed Grace. "Mad Dog's (Madeline) finish was the highest finish ever by a Harwood freshman girl at States. She will be our team leader in the years to come," said Kerrigan. Strasser was followed by India Harvey (23), Marla Davidson (29) and freshman Anneka Williams (31). The freestyle relay team of Harvey, Strasser, Butler and Davidson received the bronze for their efforts. Coach Kerrigan was especially impressed with Davidson who is only a second-year Nordic racer.
Mountain Top Nordic Center, Chittenden, Vermont – February 25, 2014, Classic
Harwood boys were led by freshman Noah Eckstein with an outstanding eighth-place finish. "Noah was fighting a bug during the freestyle race. This race was definitely more indicative of his outstanding ability," said Kerrigan. He has worked hard within both the Harwood and VTXC club programs. His summer training with the VTXC program has definitely been rewarding. Eckstein was followed by sophomore Phillip Hekeler (19), Caleb Kessler (29), Brennan Degen (31), Kyle Dash (33) and Markus Helmken (34)
Harwood boys were in good position in the relay. Hekeler was skiing an outstanding leg as the scrambler sitting in a strong second place for Division 2. "Phillip hooked a tip when he was trying to overtake a strong Division 1 skier and had a pretty hard fall. He did lose some places, but was able to get back in the fight and recover fifth place for the team. He is a tough kid, we are all proud of his efforts this year," said Kerrigan. When asked about his fall, Hekeler said, "It definitely took the wind out of my sails; I was going for it at the time. Fortunately, the rest of the team was able to maintain our third-place overall position."
Harwood girls were once again led by Grace Butler as runner-up. She was followed by Madeline Strasser (15), India Harvey (16), Paige Gaylord (26), Marla Davidson (28), Sarah Hoyne (39), Alice Woodruff (46) and Charlotte Boyden (58). "India and Paige had great races for us today. Charlotte is usually right there with them but suffered from a hard fall at the bottom of the hill," said Kerrigan.
Harwood girls climbed the podium in the classic relay as the team of Butler, Strasser, Harvey and Gaylord placed third. "I was so happy for Paige today. This was clearly the best day of her skiing career," said the veteran coach.
"Hats off to our wax guru, Tom Strasser, and wax monkey Kurt Hekeler definitely nailed the wax today. It is such a relief for me when I know that our wax techs will hand the kids fast skis," said Kerrigan.
Harwood Nordic says goodbye to the following seniors: Grace Butler, India Harvey, Sarah Hoyne, Marla Davidson, Paige Gaylord, Alice Woodruff, Nina Cavender, Anna Bauer, Markus Helmken, Ethan Carr, Jack Barnett, Tim Harris, Brennan Degen, Caleb Kessler, RJ Hommel and Noah Evans. "They have helped build this program into a contender for the last couple of years. I will miss their leadership and all of the great times we have shared over the last four years," said Kerrigan.
With over 40 skiers on the team, coach Kerrigan should have plenty of underclassmen to fill the hole left by the graduating seniors. Hekeler, Eckstein, Butler and Strasser have been selected for All State post-season teams and will be racing this week and next at the New England Championships.
By Steve Skilton
On Monday, March 3, Harwood Union alpine teams competed in the giant slalom portion of the VPA state ski meet. The site was Middlebury College Snowbowl, a challenging and exciting venue to race. This year for the first time, girls and boys were competing on the same day. The slalom portion of the meet was held Wednesday, March 5, at Burke Mountain. Results of the slalom were not available at press time.
Megan O’Shea led the Harwood girls with an outstanding fifth-place finish in a field of nearly 80 skiers. Sarah Wry, 25th, Mercedes Woolley, 26th, Sophie Dasaro, 27th, Maddie Lowe, 48th, and Ragan McMann, 51st, placed the team in sixth overall with 80 points. The good news is that this score is less than 20 points out of second place and slalom is the stronger event for the team.
Parker Herlihy, 28th, led the Harwood boys’ team with Austin Taylor 32nd, Alec McGlynn 38th, Matt Crowell 39th, Ben Friedman 46th and Malcolm Purinton 71st. After the GS the Harwood boys stand in eighth place, however, less than 30 points from the top four. Slalom is also the stronger event for the Harwood boys’ team.