NORTHVILLE — Their tackling ability isn’t going to scare any of these schools on the football field.
Their vertical leap won’t be cranking out dunks in the big gyms of Section II.
But come into their house — in this case, the rolling, snow-covered hills of the Adirondack Park — and the Mayfield girls’ Nordic ski team is the best — even against schools whose high school enrollment is half the entire Mayfield town population.
The Panthers glided to their second straight Section II championship on Wednesday afternoon, at Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center.
It was punctuated by two moments of pure glee, a group tackle of junior Delaney LaFontaine after she let herself collapse spaghetti-legged onto her back just past the finish, and a group leap for the camera phones, the skiers’ bulky boots keeping them closely tethered to the ground.
It was One Giant Leap for Mayfield last year when the Panthers stopped years and years of domination by Queensbury; Wednesday’s title decisively showed that 2019 wasn’t a fluke, especially since Mayfield, while spearheaded by individual champion Madison Relyea, won this one with a complete team effort.
The top 12 of the 40 girls’ Nordic skiers who competed will move on to the state meet in Springwater in the Finger Lakes Region on Feb. 24-25, and four of those 12 will wear the Mayfield blue and gold.
“It’s cool, because we’re kind of underdogs here, skiing against Class A schools, and we’re Class C, and D for other sports, so it goes to show you that small schools can do it, too,” LaFontaine said.
“Section II championships don’t come around a lot in Mayfield. It’s cool to represent your school and your town, because you know people are proud of you. Our principal and our AD were here today, cheering us on.”
“Oh, yeah. Our town’s awesome about that, because we’re so small, so you don’t hear a lot of things like that,” Relyea said. “So then when something big happens like this, they’re so supportive. It’s super-small, so everybody knows each other and it’s a tight-knit community.”
It was a tight-knit group of Panthers at the top of the individual results, and not quite as tight-knit in the team standings. Relyea finished in 22:56.3 for 7.5k, followed by teammates Fianna Halloran (24:16.8) in third, Tatjana Bjelica (25:47.5) in fifth and LaFontaine (26:38.5) in eighth.
Based on top-three for team scoring, the Panthers (9 points) were comfortably in front of runner-up Queensbury (24). Relyea was just under a minute faster than individual runner-up Katrin Schreiner of Hadley-Luzerne (23:52.9).
“It’s an awful, grueling sport, and to come out and compete at your absolute best — I think they all stepped up,” Mayfield coach Ryan Bornt said. “There’s no place to hide in this sport. It’s not like you can hide on the defense or outside mid in a soccer game. You have to go out there and grind for five miles. And there’s no place to hide. If you do, the clock is going to know.”
The Panthers have gotten used to competing against bigger schools from the Suburban and Foothills councils. They may get the underdog tag based on enrollment, but were the team to beat based on last year’s championship and quality performance this season, including a victory in the Mayfield Invitational. The home course advantage didn’t hurt.
“It’s definitely intimidating, but since last year — since our crazy confidence year — it’s honestly helped,” Relyea said of facing the big schools on a regular basis. “In other sports, even up to sectionals, you’re just in your class. Since we raced with everybody all year, it doesn’t make it as scary going to sectionals and states.”
That said, Bornt sensed pre-meet jitters during the week, and figured the best way to handle that was to get the team on familiar turf — the Lapland Lake course.
Instead of sitting back on Tuesday waiting for sectionals, the Panthers were out there practicing — to “blow off some steam and get on the snow,” Bornt said — less than 24 hours before the start of the meet.
He said Mayfield’s emergence as a Nordic skiing power has been a combination of dedicated athletes and community support.
“I think Nordic sometimes flies below the radar. But that’s expected. Some people do realize that we are beating Suburban Council schools, and I hope that’s a source of pride in our school community and our broader community.
“After last year, we might garner even more attention now. Like, ‘Wow, our ski team’s pretty good. These kids are worth paying attention to.'”
The defending champion Queensbury boys, led by the 1-2-4-6-8 punch of Lucas Jenkin (25:09.1 for 10k), Nick Logan, Teddy Borgos, Sam Rowley and Ben Jenkin, dominated their side of the team standings, with seven points to 39 for Lake George.
“It was kind of a grind today. It was fast, so I just pushed it the entire race, and it was a good course to push it on,” Lucas Jenkin said. “The team has been doing good, especially today. Our No. 3 got fourth today, so he had a good race and was only a couple second behind three. That’ll be good for the states relay.”
Team scores: Queensbury 7, Lake George 39, Shenendehowa 41, Mayfield 44, Glens Falls 49, Saratoga Springs 58, Johnsburg 61, Johnstown 108, Scotia-Glenville 113, Guilderland 130.
Top 12 (10k): Lucas Jenkin (Q), 25:09.1; Nick Logan (Q), 25:20.7; Paul Lindsay (LG), 26:25.3; Teddy Borgos (Q), 26:36.9; Thomas Wiedmann (Shen), 27:19.7; Sam Rowley (Q), 27:20.7; Sam Bordeau (GF), 27:25.5; Ben Jenkin (Q), 27:46.1; Braydon Jourden (May), 27:53.8; Gabe Smith (Johnsburg), 28:17.8; Philip Matthews (Shen), 28:42.8; Joseph Cocozza (LG), 29:32.5.
Team scores: Mayfield 9, Queensbury 24, Scotia-Glenville 44, Glens Falls 60, Johnstown 70, Guilderland 82.
Top 12 (7.5k): Madison Relyea (May), 22:56.3; Katrin Schreiner (Hadley), 23:52.9; Fianna Halloran May), 24:16.8; Lorraina Guay (Q), 25:07.8; Tatjana Bjelica (May), 25:47.5; Katie Culliton GF), 25:50.9; Avery Bayse (Johnsburg), 26:06.1; Delaney LaFontaine (May), 26:38.5; Brittany Barton (Q), 26:50.3; Sheridan Millington (Johnsburg), 26:54.9; Annalise Beyerbach (Q), 26:55.0; Iris Wiedmann Shen), 26:57.5.