GLENS FALLS — When Winter Storm Gail brought more than 30 inches of snow to some places in the greater Capital Region earlier this month, Section II Nordic skiers rejoiced.
Then, warmer temperatures and rain dampened their spirits — and left them scrambling to find a suitable course for Wednesday’s season-opening Shenendehowa/Saratoga Invitational.
“We were so excited because we went so long into December with no snow and then we got all that,” Mayfield senior Delaney LaFontaine said.
“I woke up Christmas morning and it was gone,” LaFontaine said. “I was like, ‘I think the Grinch took the snow and didn’t give it back.’”
Brookhaven Golf Course and Queensbury High School were the first two options for the event, which then settled at Cole’s Woods in Glens Falls, adjacent to Crandall Park. Even there, the course had two small sections taken out due to low snow cover.
The Mayfield girls’ team took the top spot Wednesday, led by senior Madison Relyea as the girls’ solo winner. Relyea covered the 4.6k course in 13:20.2, while teammates Fianna Halloran finished fourth at 14:21.1 and LaFontaine was sixth at 15:17.6.
“We weren’t even supposed to be racing or practicing until after Jan. 4 because our school [went remote through Jan. 4], but we ended up going to the [school] board and working it out,” LaFontaine said. “Just to be out here racing with everybody, you really can’t complain. The snow was scarce in spots, but overall, it was good.”
Cole’s Woods brought the best out of Shenendehowa junior Phil Matthews, finishing third and breaking up the trio from Queensbury of first-place finisher Lucas Jenkin, runner-up Sam Rowley and fourth-place finisher Ben Jenkin.
“I was feeling like I was flying today, feeling great,” Matthews said about his 12:39.4 time.
He added: “Being able to go and ski third as a junior with still one more year, that just feels great.”
On the Shenendehowa girls’ side, sophomore Iris Wiedmann finished seventh at 15:56.5, in front of seventh-grade teammate Raquelle Landa at 16:23.5.
“I thought that we wouldn’t have any snow,” Wiedmann said. “We didn’t have snow for a really long time, so I was really happy that there was finally snow to be able to go skiing.”
She is looking to continue the family tradition of strong ski finishes. Her sister, Anna, is president of the McGill University Nordic Ski Team during her third year at the Quebec institution.
“I’ve been skiing for a while, learned my ski technique from her,” Wiedmann said.
While the Mayfield girls and Queensbury boys took the top spots in decisive fashion, other teams are hoping to make improvements heading into 2021.
“We’ve only had two weeks; training and fitness is all still coming together,” Shenendehowa coach Andrew Cleney said. “Normally, we’d be a month in and be in great shape. Now, we’re in good shape, but we still don’t know what we have yet.
Queensbury 7, Mayfield 34, Johnsburg 35, Lake George 41, Shenendehowa 43, Lake George 49, Scotia-Glenville 65, Guilderland 91, Hadley-Luzerne Inc.
L. Jenkin (Q), 12:13.3; Rowley, (Q), 12:31.3; Matthews (Shen), 12:39.4; B. Jenkin (Q), 12:52.9; Jourden (M), 13:27.2; Schmale (J), 13:27.3; Williams (M), 13:30.1; Rodewald (Q), 13:33.9; Jansen (S-G), 14:39.6; Richard (LG), 14:55.4
Mayfield 11, Queensbury 17, Lake George 48, Guilderland 48, Scotia-Glenville 60, Shenendehowa Inc., Johnsburg Inc., Hadley-Luzerne Inc.
Relyea (M), 13:20.2; Katrin (H-L), 13:24.9; R. Guay (Q), 14.14.9; Halloran (M), 14:21.1; Beyerbach (Q), 15:13.4; LaFontaine (M), 15:17.6; Wiedmann (Shen), 15:56.5; Landa (Shen), 16:23.5; Keshmira (Q), 16:43.6; B. Guay (Q), 17:20.9.