The Oyster River High School Ski Team had a strong start to their season, placing second overall in their race on January 13th at Pats Peak in Henniker.
With limited teams allowed to participate in races due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ORHS only raced against Bow and Pembroke. Although there were just 69 racers who participated in the race, the Bobcats still faced some tough competition. “I think that the team did very well. The girls killed it today, and the boys had some very tough competition from Bow and Pembroke, but we were still able to get some good placements,” said Nico Colarusso (‘22), a member of the team since his freshman year.
For the ORHS girls the top placements in Slalom were Holly Reid (‘21) who placed 2nd, Maddie Merrill (‘22) who placed 6th, and Olivia Mueller (‘24) who placed 8th. For the ORHS boys the top placements were Nico Colarusso (‘22) who placed 3rd, Owen Mueller (‘21) who placed 5th, and Ethan Wilson (‘21) who placed 8th.
For the ORHS girls the top placements in Giant Slalom (GS) were Reid who placed 2nd, Elise Vachon (‘22) who placed 5th, and Olivia Mueller who placed 6th. For the ORHS boys the top placements were Owen Mueller who placed 4th, Wilson who placed 5th, and Colarusso who placed 11th. Due to a rut, Colarusso slid out in his first run causing him valuable time but he still managed to pull off a top finish.
For many of the racers on the ORHS team, this was their first race. Olivia Mueller, a new member to the team said, “I wanted to think of the race as just another practice and just have fun.” Many other new racers shared this mindset, and with only two other teams, this was a good starting race.
While for some it was their first race, for others on the team it was just another opening event. “I think I had a solid first race of the season. Personally, I didn’t have many expectations going into it, not having a lot of training beforehand. I tried my best and put down some good runs and was happy with how I did,” said Reid, a captain and four year member. Before the race, the ORHS team only had two days of slalom training in gates, and no training in Giant Slalom (GS).
Another challenge for the team aside from lack of training was the conditions. It was warmer out, which meant the snow was soft and slowed the racers down. Along with this, the softer snow can more easily build up in some spots and form large bumps (ruts) which can mess the racers up. “The courses did get a little bit rutty due to it being warm out, which made it tricky,” said Reid.
Along with difficult conditions, the athletes were introduced to a new race format. Usually the girls take their first runs in order of their placement out of all of the girls from all teams. For example, the top OR girl would go, then the top Bow girl, and then the top Pembroke girl. Then, the second OR girl would go, and so on. Then the boys would then follow suit for their first run. That order would then repeat for the athletes second run. After this there would be a lunch break and then the athletes would run the other event’s course in the same fashion.
This race was set up so that the slalom race was the first of the day. The boys and girls were then grouped by their team, and ran the course as that group. ORHS ran the course third in slalom, but then got to run the course first in GS.
Despite the new format, the team still had a very successful race. “The team did awesome. The seasoned vets took the lead and had a great day, and the new racers jumped right in and gave it their all and got results. There were a few mishaps and ski pop offs, but that is part of ski racing. Overall, a great day for all,” said Daryn Gladstone, the new coach of the ORHS ski team.
As for the courses themselves, the slalom course was set fairly wide which made for a more difficult run. “The course was a little bit tricky at the top. It was definitely “turney” and you had to make some quick turns and really stay ahead of it, but down at the bottom you could really get into a rhythm where it was flat, and that was really fun,” said Reid.
Following the slalom race was GS. Similarly to the slalom course, “the GS course was set very wide and the first gate was across the hill from the start. This forced you to have a high line right off the bat or else you wouldn’t make it down the course (which I did not). The third gate had a very large rut that was difficult to traverse but just like the slalom, on the flats you could really let it go and finish,” said Colarusso.
For years, the ORHS Ski Team has been the loudest and most energetic team on the mountain, and they continued that in their first race. “As always, I think my favorite part is the team comradery. Everyone is super supportive and cheering for each other. We’re definitely the loudest team up there, and I think that makes it really fun knowing you have a supportive team around you, and knowing it doesn’t matter how you place,” said Reid. This aspect of the team provided a sense of normalcy for the team, despite a weird season.
It has been hard for many of the team members to connect with each other, as they did in previous years. It has been difficult for them to get to know the new athletes while staying socially distant, wearing masks, and not driving up together on the bus. “[The season] is not what I expected with COVID. I haven’t been able to get to know some teammates as well as I want to, but everyone on the team has been very welcoming and helpful,” said Olivia Mueller.
Although this season might not be what the team expected, they kicked it off with a strong start and will continue to keep working hard and get good results. Their next race is today (January 19th) at their home mountain, Gunstock. Gladstone said, “The team has been training hard and dedicating themselves to be prepared. I think they are all on the right track and we will continue to move in this direction.”