It appears that nothing can stop Mayfield High School senior Madison Relyea from smiling — a facial expression even noticeable when she’s wearing her protective face covering.
Relyea began her final Nordic ski season with a Shenendehowa/Saratoga Invitational win at Cole’s Woods in Glens Falls last Wednesday, covering the 4.6k course in 13:20.2. It was a solid start to the season for last year’s overall state champion, and it thrilled Relyea just to be able to compete.
“It’s amazing to be able to come back with a team and feel somewhat like normal,” said Relyea, whose ski season continues Tuesday in the Queensbury Invitational at Gore Mountain. “It’s a little different, a little smaller, but I’m just so happy to be able to be on snow and race.”
Relyea lost her outdoor track season last year, as all spring sports were canceled after just days of practice because of concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. In the fall, she raced a condensed cross country season.
“We only ran five or six races. Nothing like a normal season,” Relyea said. “No states, nothing. Just dual meets; it was much different.”
Some things stayed the same as Relyea, committed to run at UConn, captured her fifth consecutive Western Athletic Conference girls’ title, before turning her attention to the upcoming Nordic skiing season.
“I came into this season feeling extremely out of shape because I didn’t pack on that mileage like I usually do after going to [cross country] states and running,” she said.
She had to wait for Mother Nature and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association to cooperate. A winter season that normally starts in early November instead started in mid-December because of concerns related to the pandemic.
Then, Winter Storm Gail arrived.
“It was awesome — I was like, ‘Let’s go skiing,’ the next day,” Relyea said. “It was our first day of practice and I felt that was a perfect summary of everything; it was so exciting.”
She had hope that the abundance of cold and snow would last. Rain and warmer weather, though, forced last week’s Shenendehowa/Saratoga Invitational to change venues multiple times because of a lack of snow. At Cole’s Woods, though, Relyea started her season with a victory, anyway.
“We’ve only been on snow not very long. I was definitely nervous,” Relyea said. “But I’m just happy to be with my team and to be able to be on snow.”
Relyea knows that her final Nordic skiing season will have adjustments, including knowing that she will not have a chance to defend her state Nordic skiing title. The NYSPHSAA has announced it will not conduct winter state championships, but Section II coaches at last week’s invitational said there are hopes for some form of a postseason event.
“I’m hoping maybe there is a little bit of postseason going on in Nordic,” Relyea said. “I’m not sure what’s going to be happening with the big races. I’m definitely hoping that it goes on longer than just the normal season.”
Relyea said she’s looking forward to her senior track and field season, but also knows that no competition or season is guaranteed to occur after the way the last year has played out.
So she’s embracing each day of this winter season that she gets to compete.
“If I just got a good Nordic season in with my best friends, my teammates, I would be more than happy to just have that,” Relyea said.