Going into their state meet, the Oyster River Girls Ski Team was focused on appreciating their final race together and celebrating a season of strong racing. Additionally, the girls hoped to apply what they’d been working on all season and get great results, which they achieved.
The team ended their season strongly this Wednesday at the Division II state meet, with one racer continuing on to compete at the Meet of Champions. While results like these were exciting, the best part of the day for the girls was getting to spend time with each other and enjoy the day, as it would be the final state meet for some. “It was a great way to finish off my senior year. I have always enjoyed the ski team because we spend a whole day goofing around on the mountain and hyping each other up, and that was exactly what we did. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish off the year than just spending time with friends and cheering for everyone,” said Zoe Smith (‘21).
Oyster River, along with Pembroke, Souhegan, Hanover, ConVal, Goffstown, Bow, Hollis Brookline, Kingswood, Kennett, and Windham, all gathered at Crotched Mountain for the race. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state meet looked slightly different than past years. The most notable difference is that instead of doing the start order by seeding, where the best racers from each team would go in a row, the teams stayed together in an attempt to cohort. For example, in the past, the first Oyster River girl would go, then the first Pembroke girl, then the first Souhegan girl, and so on. Then, the second seeded girls would go. This year, all six Oyster River girls went one after another, and then all six from another team went. Additionally, all racers wore masks and stayed distant.
Another change made was to the amount of slots available to make the Meet of Champions (MOC), where the top racers from each of the four New Hampshire divisions come together for a race. Typically, the top 10 racers in slalom, and the top 10 racers in Giant Slalom (GS) advance to MOCs. However, this year, only the top seven racers in each event would move forward in order to limit numbers at MOCs.
One thing that was consistent with past years was that the top six racers from each team attended. Holly Reid (‘21), Maddie Merrill (‘22), Olivia Mueller (‘24), Emily McPherson (‘23), Jen Newick (‘22), and Smith all competed.
Going into the state meet, coach Daryn Gladstone’s goals were to “get to the hill, get in the gates, and give it our all with results to follow. I think we hit all the goals and had some great results.”
The first race of the day was the GS. Although a bit chilly out, it was a sunny day with great snow conditions. While there was a thin layer of soft snow to start, that went away after a few racers came down, and edgeable ice came through, making it a fast track. Racers each had two runs on the course, and then got a final time combining both runs to determine their overall placement.
As for the set of the course, it was fairly straight forward. There were a few sections where starting the turn early was important, and the girls focused on maintaining speed during the long flat section of the trail. After the first run, Reid was in 9th, .3 away from a top 7 finish however due to a fall on the second run, she did not get an overall time. The race went smoothly for Oyster River, other than that one fall. Overall, the top 3 racers for the GS were Merrill, Mueller, and McPherson. Merrill ended up in 22nd, Mueller came in 28th, and McPherson landed in 35th out of 69 racers.
After the GS came the slalom. The slalom course held up throughout the day, and while some turns were icy, it was very manageable. “The SL course was also a good mix of combos and some rhythmic sections, as well as a good pitch and an area that was semi-flat. It was longer than we have been racing all winter, but we have had lots of slalom training which I think helped a bunch in the longer course,” said Gladstone.
Maintaining a high line on this course was even more important than it was in the GS race. The gates came up fast and it was necessary to quickly move from one turn to the next. Another focus was pushing forward with each turn on the flat section, where most speed would be lost if not done correctly. Reid ended up in 7th overall, which was just enough to send her to MOCs next week. Merrill came in 26th, and Mueller came in 31st. The race was smooth for the Bobcats, other than a crash from Newick at the bottom of the second run of the slalom.
As a team, the girls team came in 5th in slalom and 5th in the GS race. This result was great, especially considering the challenging teams the girls were up against.
Although in the end it was successful on all accounts, going into the race everyone had different goals, which included making it to MOCs, finishing in the top half of the competitors, and just having a good time. “Honestly, my goal going into states was to enjoy every second of it. Of course I wanted to do well and everything, but this was going to be my last high school race so I really wanted to focus more on having fun with my teammates rather than placing well,” said Smith.
Newick had a similar focus to Smith. “I didn’t expect to make MOCs or anything, and I wanted to be in the top half of competitors, which I was for GS. I didn’t have huge expectations, I just wanted to have fun and try my best.”
For freshman Mueller, this was her first year attending states. “I was a little nervous just because there were going to be more teams, but otherwise I felt fine, and a little underprepared for GS.” As Mueller referenced, due to training schedules at Gunstock, the team only trained slalom all year, and their only time in GS courses was during races.
For some, like Mueller, it was their first states ever. For others it was their last. “It was a great way to finish off my senior year. I have always enjoyed the ski team because we spend a whole day goofing around on the mountain and hyping each other up, and that was exactly what we did. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish off the year than just spending time with friends and cheering for everyone,” said Smith.
States was a celebration of a great and successful season, where a lot of improvements were made, despite the pandemic. “My first slalom run was my favorite part of the day. I was pretty confident and I was glad I made it down. I felt as though I could’ve had a better time but I was still happy with it because I feel I’ve improved a lot in slalom this year and so I was happy with that,” said Newick.
Gladstone reflected on the day, and said, “the team had a great day as a whole. There were a few mishaps and DNFs but that is part of the sport. Everyone gave it their all and laid it on the line, and I am very happy with the energy and effort they all put in this season and the finals.”
Stay tuned for more information on the Oyster River boys state meet, which was held Thursday at Cranmore Mountain. Additionally, the Meet of Champions will be held Thursday the 18th at Cannon Mountain.
Images by Alyson Mueller