Oyster River Girls States Ski Race

The Oyster River High School (ORHS) Ski Racing Team’s season wrapped up last week, as the top six girls competed in the States race last Tuesday, the 11th, and the boys the following day. Girls raced both slalom and giant slalom (GS) for a chance to compete in the Meet of Champions. The Girls and Boys teams overall both placed 7th in their State races, and the racers who advanced to the Meet of Champions include: Holly Reid (‘21), Owen Mueller (‘21), and Nico Colarusso (‘22). Not only are three ORHS racers going to the Meet of Champions, but the Ski Team is also applauded by other schools for the amount of spirit they bring to the course. 

Above, Reid is shown starting her first GS run of the day. Each racer got to take two runs of GS, and two runs of Slalom. Reid was the first racer from ORHS, and even competed in the Meet of Champions in 2019. Reid had a great day, placing 6th in slalom and 14th in GS, meaning she will be moving on to represent ORHS in the Meet of Champions on February 20th at Cannon Mountain. 

Madeleine Merrill is shown racing GS as the second ORHS racer. Merrill started racing freshman year of high school with the ORHS race team, and made her second appearance at the States meet this year. As Merrill waited to start her first run, her team could be seen applauding and encouraging her to race her best. “Everyone around you is always cheering you on when you’re in the  gate [start], and people from other schools talk about our team spirit as well,” says Merrill. 

Elise Vachon (‘23) is shown racing down her first course of the day. From each school competing in Division two ski racing, six girls and boys with the best scores in each slalom and GS were able to advance to the State competition. The girls who raced on Tuesday are as follows: Holly Reid, Madeleine Merrill (‘22), Elise Vachon, Kenzie Bruhm (‘20), Emily Macpherson (‘23), Jennifer Newick (‘22), and Zoe Smith (‘21).

After all the girls have taken their GS runs, the course is reset for slalom. A slalom course uses one pole while GS uses two, and is set tighter than a GS course. Racers have to weave in and out of the poles while maintaining a fast speed. Above, three ORHS racers are shown slipping the course before their run: Emily Macpherson, Jennifer Newick, and Zoe Smith. Slipping a course is when racers slide around the gates or poles in order to get a feel for the course and push snow off the course. 

In the photo above, four racers who qualified for Boys States watch as the girls compete below. From left to right: Ethan Wilson (‘21), Gabe Speidel (‘21), Owen Mueller, and Stephan Flaherty (‘20). Even though the Boys States competition was the next day, some of the boys came out to support the girls. Team spirit on the ORHS Ski Team is clear through athletes cheering on their teammates before they go. “I thought it was super nice to have everyone come [to the race] on their day off from school. Everything they did from cheering at the top of the course, running our coats, and just being there to calm our nerves was great. Having everyone there, even if there were only seven girls racing, really just made it that much more fun and exciting,” says Reid.

 In the photograph above, Emily Macpherson (‘23) is captured just as she comes out of a slalom gate. As the the slalom portion of the race begins, ORHS athletes have to change their techniques and styles of racing. Some racers have two different pairs of skis, one for GS and the other for slalom. Racers go from a wide and open course to a tight and narrow one where they are required to make quick moves. Macpherson, like most racers, uses a chin bar, shin guards, and pole guards to prevent the gates from hitting her as she races. As you become more experienced, you get closer to the gates in order to go faster and need protection for when you hit them. 

Here Reid is photographed as she nears the finish of her first slalom run. Over the season, Reid has performed stronger in slalom than GS. As a captain, Reid has been able to watch her teammates grow as racers over the duration of the season. “I thought the race day was really fun,” says Reid. “There was definitely a lot of competition and it was a challenging race, but I think everyone skied super well and you can see a ton of progress that people have made throughout the year.”