James Denney was on his skis even before his coach arrived.
The Scotia-Glenville Nordic ski team was enjoying a rarity last week, taking full advantage of trails well-covered for consecutive days.
Every day on the snow gives this team of just 14 skiers — and not all of them competing in varsity races yet — a better chance in the regular-season invitationals and the Section II championships.
“We had teams of 20 and 18 for years, and the program was coming along, building fine. Then all of a sudden, these last four years of this kind of struggle [with the weather],” said head coach Dirk Francois, who with assistant Lisa Forshey had the team skiing trails on a private plot of land last Tuesday. “This is the second day in a row we’ve been on snow, and we haven’t done that all year. That’s why I’m going crazy. We’ve got to get on the snow!”
The boys’ team has been in contention at this season’s invitationals against powerhouse teams like Queensbury and Shenendehowa, winning the Canajoharie Invitational on Jan. 10. Scotia has been led by junior Matt Forshey, who won the Canajoharie Invitational and the Lake George Invitational on Jan. 20. The next two skiers have been Denney and James Rooney, who both had been earning top-12 finishes.
“Hopefully, everything can piece together by the end,” Forshey said. “I think we have a shot at sectionals. It depends where we’re racing. It also depends on the distance and the snow, but our boys, if we can all bring it together and get in the top 10, we have a pretty good chance.
“My personal goal is to win sectionals this year, but top two or three … I just want to make it to states and see what happens in states. I’d like to be in the top five at states.”
After missing a large portion of his sophomore season because of asthma, Forshey recovered in time to reach states and finish 10th.
He’s following in the footsteps of his older sister, Ashley, who was a sectional champion and now skis for Clarkson.
For a week or two, the boys’ team has had to look past its top three skiers to sophomores Terry Francois and Matt LeGere for their third and final scoring skier, as Rooney has been sidelined to get his wisdom teeth pulled, but he should return soon.
“He missed last week,” said coach Francois, “he’s missing this Friday, and I’m, like, ‘James, you know, you can get your wisdom teeth out in March, April, May, June, July … you want me to keep counting the months?’ ”Last year, Francois said he felt the girls’ team could win sectionals, then one of his top few skiers left for Europe. He was aware of the departure well before it happened, but it shows how smaller teams feel the sting of losing skiers, even for a short time, more than the larger squads.
“Other teams have a lot more depth, so they don’t have to put all their eggs in one basket and say these three are it,” Francois said. “They have someone in sixth place or 10th place who will move right up. We don’t have that.”
The Scotia-Glenville girls’ team is anchored by junior Gabby Rodbell, who has been consistently finishing in the top 10 at invitationals and has gone to states the past two seasons. She is looking to return and land in the top 15.
Lily Becker has been a solid No. 2 skier for the squad in the top 15, but the team lacks experience beyond its top two.
Middle-schooler Sage Pleminick, though, is picking up experience skiing on the modified level.
“Our modified girl, Sage, I’m really excited for her because she’s been doing well on modified, and the earlier the start, the better,” Rodbell said. “She’ll be great.”
It would be nice to build around a young skier like that for the team’s future, but Rodbell said it’s difficult to recruit people to the sport.
“It’s hard, because as the years go by, we don’t continually have nice snow,” Rodbell said. “It’s hard to get the interest. And I think a lot of people are nervous because skiing is really different from any other sport. It’s completely different from soccer, basketball and other sports that are common for people to try. It’s hard to get new girls.”
For those already on the team, to grow from any success they experience this season, Francois reminds them if they want to excel, especially in this area, they have to work as hard when there is no snow as they do on the days it falls in buckets.
“All summer, we have roller skis going,” he said. “The people who want to put some extra time in, then they don’t have to have snow every day. If you’re going to depend on this stuff, you’re not going to go very far. If you’re ready to strap on roller skis in the summer, run cross country in the fall, you’re going to do well.”