The Section II competition season gets underway this week with both Alpine and Nordic teams in action.
The early season snowfall on top of cold temperatures for the snow guns has the given the high school sliders plenty of on-the-hill training opportunities already this winter. That has been especially helpful for the Nordic racers, who now have the North Creek Snow Bowl with its snow-making system and hill lighting in place.
This has been a game- changer for cross country ski athletes. As recently as a couple of years ago, they were often on roads and in parking lots on roller blades well into December because of the lack of natural snow cover throughout the region. This year they were training on snow in November at the Ski Bowl, which now has snow-making on 3.7 kilometers of its 5-kilometer trail layout.
One result of all this is the likelihood of a robust competition season ahead, starting Saturday with the Queensbury Relays.
There have been warm-up events earlier this month but now comes the official 10-race sectional schedule and sectional championships to see who qualifies for the state championships in mid-February.
Going into the season, it looks like Queensbury and Shenendehowa will be the teams to beat. One reason is team depth, according to Section II Nordic coordinator Steve Tombs.
“There are a lot of talented individuals in the section this year,” he said. “But the team results are based on the top three finishers from each team so it will take more than one racer to win events.”
On the girls side, competitors to watch include Emily Atamanchuk, Bailey Gengel and Maggie Borgos from Queensbury, Anna Wiedmann and Julieanne Burnes from Shenendehowa, Ava Anderson from Johnsburg and Mayfield’s Madison Relyea (who is also a distance running star).
For the boys, Brian Beyerback, the reigning sectional champion, and Queensbury teammate Dan Manzella are strong individual racers, as is Seamus Tombs from Johnsburg, Erik Schreiner from Hadley-Luzerne, Mike Halligan from Spa Catholic, and Alex Fragomini from Saratoga.
Cross country competition comes in two forms, skate style and classic. This is a skate year at the state championship, so the majority of the races will be that style at distances up to 10 kilometers for the boys. In addition to the Section II races, there are other competitions that feature athletes from outside the region, including the junior nationals qualifier at the North Creek Ski Bowl on Jan. 6 and U-16 Eastern Championships in March which are expected to draw some 400 competitors to the Ski Bowl.
There are 13 schools in Section II that will field Nordic teams this winter.
On the Alpine side, the competition season kicks off officially on Jan. 8 with the Saratoga Invitational at Willard Mountain. The sectionals will be Tuesday, Feb. 13 at West Mountain, with the state meet scheduled for Feb. 26-27 at Bristol Mountain near Rochester.
It should be an interesting winter around the dinner table at the Montgomery household at West Mountain. Junior Maddie Montgomery leads the Queensbury- South Glens Falls girls team, while brother Hunter, a sophomore, leads the boys. Both teams are favored to win sectional honors.
Expected to be in the hunt on the girls side are Emma Willard, led by senior Carlynn Cerniglia, and individual competitors Melissa Taggert from Shen and Schuylerville’s Hannah Klingebiel.
For the boys, Pat Leonard returns from last year’s Shenendehowa state championship team and is joined by fellow junior Chase Paton. Schuylerville senior Ian Montgomery, Hunter’s cousin, and Nick Fraterrigo from Niskayuna, are expected to be top individual contenders.
There are 14 schools fielding teams in the Alpine competition this winter.
Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month
Under the heading “Humans Were Not Meant to Hibernate,” January has once again been designated “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month” by the National Ski and Snowboard Association. The focus is on getting first-timers out on the slopes. Check local areas for a list of special deals throughout the month.
The family-owned Rotterdam ski slope has been a place to learn skiing for more than 50 years. The popular six-week after-school programs for children grades 3 and up begins next Wednesday afternoon, and is also offered
Thursday and Friday afternoons along with a weekend program, too. Of special interest may be the “adults only” learning program on Wednesdays starting at 6:30 p.m., and “women only” on Thursday evenings, also at 6:30.
For a full schedule of programs, check www.mapleridge.com.
The New York Capital District Ski Council has three races set for this winter. The first is Jan. 20 at Oak Mountain in Speculator, the second is Jan. 28 at West Mountain and the third is Feb. 25 at Magic Mountain in Vermont.
Good sliding in the New Year to all.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].