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Nordic Ski Teams Embrace Changes

High school outdoor sports in midst of season
Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 8:11 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s a beautiful afternoon for a high school nordic ski race at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston, with all your typical COVID precautions.

“We’re you know doing the mask wearing stuff,” said Noe Lindemuth, a senior captain on the Mt. Mansfield boys nordic team. “Distancing is quite easy on skis you know.”

“It definitely started off a little weird but for the most part I think we’ve really like fallen back into place,” added Helen Goodyear, a junior captain on the Cougars’ girls nordic team. “We just kind of have adapted and overcome.”

MMU is one of the state’s most successful nordic teams with the boys winning two of the last five D1 titles and the girls claiming three of the last six...but if you’re familiar with the sport, you’re probably wondering where their competitors are.

“We’re racing in time slots instead of all together,” said Willem Smith, a boys junior captain. “So just one team at a time, and there’s no other teams around you when you race.”

A typical Nordic race would often bring hundreds of people to the same spot at the same time, which obviously is problematic this year. The Cougars say there are some advantages to the new setup.

“It does in some ways take the pressure off, because you don’t have that rival team right next to you skiing,” Goodyear said.

“But there are plenty of negatives that go along with it as well.

“I definitely feel like it has quite an effect,” said Hattie Barker, a girls team junior captain. “I really enjoy being able to see people throughout my race and try and catch them or try and hold people off.”

“I have a lot of friends on other teams and I don’t get to see them as much,” Smith added. “That’s definitely a major downside.”

“The state meet will certainly look different this year,” Lindemuth said. “Unfortunately we won’t have the opportunity for spectators or to have actually the entire team there. I think we’ll only have our varsity team there.”

Aside from the different mental aspect that goes along with what is essentially a time trial, there’s a very tangible difference with teams racing at different times of day. And that could affect results.

“The later you race, the conditions sometimes can get a little more choppy and mushy,” Barker said. “But that’s just part of racing,” she said with a laugh.

But given how tough the last year has been for everyone, the skiers are taking the changes in stride.

“I’m so thankful that we’re actually able to get a race season in and be able to still get on skis and practice and see our team and not have to be doing this alone...it’s great,” Barker said.

“The whole nordic community is really a big family, and that aspect is certainly missing this year,” Lindemuth said. “But we’re making the best of it and like I said, we’re privileged to have the opportunity to race.”

Two other major changes are that there won’t be any relay races this year, and the boys and girls state championships will be two separate days the second week of March.

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