The Oyster River High School Ski Team opened their season on January 3rd with a race at Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, NH. The girls team finished in third place for the giant slalom (GS) and slalom races, and the boys team finished third in GS and fourth in slalom.
The team had a successful first race on their home hill against Gilford, Kearsarge, St. Thomas, Newfound, Belmont, Laconia and Prospect, according to race organizers and participants. For many racers, this was their first time in a race course.
Head coach Mike Regan said, “a big challenge was that a lot of the kids had never skied in a course before. I think a lot of them found it intimidating. We tried to get past that by telling them it’s meant to be a fun day, and I didn’t want anybody taking it too seriously.”
Stephen Flaherty (‘20) is a new member of the team and said, “I didn’t expect much. It was my first time ever being on a race course, and I was just hoping to get down the course and do it fast.”
Although there were many new athletes, there were also a number of returning athletes. Zoe Smith (‘21), has been a member of the team since her freshman year. “I was definitely nervous, but once I went through the course and did my first run, I felt like those fears disappeared, and all I wanted to do was run the course again.” As Smith discussed, nerves are not uncommon, especially before the first race of the season, but many spoke to how those nerves dissipated after having their first run under their belt.
Another challenge, aside from the new athletes having never raced before, and pre-race nerves, was the conditions. In the morning, with high temperatures, the snow was very soft. While this may seem beneficial, it can also be a challenge because with more snow, often times it is harder to pick up speed and go fast. Additionally, soft snow can lead to a build up of bumps and holes in the course, often referred to as ruts. While at the race, Gilford Head Coach Tyler Davis said, “it’s about 40 degrees right now and it’s soft snow. The ruts are holding up but they are pretty significant, so that’s always a big challenge when you have soft snow and a warm day.”
Regardless of these challenges, members of the team still think it was a great first race. “I think [the race] went very well. A lot of people skied well. I think [the ski team] is pretty competitive this year. We have a few new people who will be really competitive for states especially,” said Captain Gabe Speidel (‘21), who has been on the team since his freshman year.
The course was set on a narrow trail, allowing for a very fast course. “The GS course is great over here because it’s a little straighter and it’s a little mellower as far as the angle of the hill goes. For high school racing with such a big gap in talent, it lets the good kids ski faster, and it’s not as scary for those who just aren’t as familiar with racing,” said Davis.
For the ORHS boys, the top finishers in the GS were sophomore Nico Colarusso (‘22), Captain Owen Mueller (‘21), and Ethan Wilson (‘21), respectively. For the ORHS girls, the top finishers were Captain Holly Reid (‘21), Captain Susanna Serrano (‘20), and Mackenzie Bruhm (‘20).
The slalom race followed the GS. “The slalom is interesting here. We start at the same spot that we do as the GS. It’s one of the longer courses that we get for the year […] If you can ski a slalom course this long, it really means that you’re a decent skier,” Davis said. In the slalom, for the ORHS boys, the top finishers were Mueller, Wilson, and Flaherty, respectively. For the ORHS girls, the top finishers were Reid, Serrano, and Bruhm, respectively.
At all of the races, the ORHS Ski Team is known for their enthusiasm and support for their teammates. “It’s a very supportive team. You go for your run and everyone is cheering. You can’t really fail the team, it’s fun. You don’t have any pressure. You come out and ski for fun,” said Speidel.
“I think everyone’s really excited to be here and it’s really awesome to see,” said Olivia Colarusso (‘19), who was on the ski team all throughout high school and attended the race.
The team has a lot of potential and enthusiasm this year, and this race was the perfect kick off to their season. “The first race of the season couldn’t have gone better. We had a whole bunch of new athletes, and every single one of them is a great skier. I really could not be happier,” Regan said.
The team is looking forward to having another great day of racing on January 10th at Gunstock Mountain. ORHS will be hosting the race that day, with both GS and slalom races occurring throughout the day.