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Tim O'Sullivan: Hopkinton’s Cam DeBrusk a master of snow

  • Hopkinton senior Cam DeBrusk won the Skimeister title last year as the recipient of the most points in both alpine and nordic skiing.<br/><br/>Jeff Eitreim for the Monitor

    Hopkinton senior Cam DeBrusk won the Skimeister title last year as the recipient of the most points in both alpine and nordic skiing.

    Jeff Eitreim for the Monitor

  • Hopkinton senior Cam DeBrusk won the Skimeister title last year as the recipient of the most points in both alpine and nordic skiing.<br/><br/>Jeff Eitreim for the Monitor

The title itself is compelling – Skimeister. It certainly intrigued Cam DeBrusk when he first heard about it as a new sixth-rader taking a tour of Hopkinton Middle High School.

“The guidance counselor mentioned it and I thought it might be interesting to try one day, maybe, so I guess it was in the back of my mind for a while,” DeBrusk said. “And then I just decided to do it, to see if I could do it.”

Turns out he could. DeBrusk was the Division IV Skimeister last year, which means he practiced and competed for both the Nordic and Alpine teams all season, and then posted the best combined times in the two championship meets. He’ll be the favorite to repeat this winter, racing first at the D-IV Alpine meet on Feb. 13 at Cannon Mountain and the Nordic meet the next day at Great Glen Trails in Gorham.

“Talk about anarchy,” said Rob Nadeau, Hopkinton’s Nordic coach. “It’s a really tricky balancing act.”

Which is one reason why so few even try it. DeBrusk was one of just four skiers competing for the title last year. Trying to reach a championship level in one discipline is hard enough, never mind two.

“It’s really challenging to keep my oxygen intake, my endurance, where it needs to be and trying to train for Alpine, because they really don’t complement each other,” DeBrusk said. “The other thing that I find hard sometimes is keeping up with schoolwork, because skiing is the kind of thing where you miss a lot of school.”

DeBrusk has been downhill skiing and racing since an early age. He picked up Nordic as a sophomore in order to compete for the Skimeister title. That’s a common path for skiers to take, from Alpine to Nordic. What’s uncommon is how quickly DeBrusk has succeeded on the Nordic tracks.

As a sophomore two years ago, DeBrusk was 18th overall in both the classic and skate races at the D-IV Nordic championships, results that held him back in the Skimeister competition (he was third in the slalom and seventh in the giant slalom at the Alpine meet).

“He was in the hunt, but clearly his Nordic technique was not where it needed to be to make it all happen,” Nadeau said.

Last winter, however, DeBrusk jumped all the way to fourth in both the classic and skate races, results that compensated for his 19th-place finish the day before in the giant slalom (he was fourth in the slalom). And he’s improved enough this year to give himself a chance at making the New Hampshire Series Nordic team, which competes in regional competition at the end of the high school season.

“It’s one thing to switch over and be able to do well in the Skimeister competition because you’re a really strong Alpine skier and you become an okay Nordic skier,” Nadeau said. “But it’s pretty rare to switch over and elevate yourself that fast.”

To be honest, DeBrusk was well-suited for the rapid Nordic elevation. He was comfortable on skis and, as a runner for the Hopkinton cross country team, he knew what it took be a quality endurance athlete. This fall at the D-III cross country championships, DeBrusk finished sixth overall, leading Hopkinton to the title. He was ninth in the 2011 championships and 26th in 2010, helping the Hawks to second-place team results both years.

DeBrusk wanted to improve his Nordic skills for his individual goals, but also for the team. Hopkinton had won seven straight D-IV Nordic crowns before finishing second to Inter-Lakes two years ago.

“We all really wanted to win the states that next year and regain our position as a team, so I definitely trained a lot harder on roller skis and stuff like that,” said DeBrusk, whose fourth-place results in the classic and skate races helped Hopkinton take back the D-IV title last winter. “And now I actually think I’ve become better at Nordic than I am at Alpine.”

Which goes to show the balancing act is never done. On Wednesday, for example, Hopkinton has a Nordic race at Waterville and an Alpine race at Pat’s Peak, both scheduled for 3 p.m. DeBrusk said he’ll probably go to Pat’s because he’s missed two Alpine practices this year for Nordic events.

Nadeau said DeBrusk’s teammates are excited for him in his Skimeister quest, but he added that, “I don’t think they all necessarily realize how difficult it is.” There are two notable exceptions, senior Maria Booth and sophomore Maddy Sorel, who are both chasing the girls’ Skimeister title this winter.

Like DeBrusk, both Booth and Sorel are Alpine skiers learning Nordic for the competition. Nadeau said they are both picking it up quickly, and that Booth has a good shot to win it this year. Having a role model like DeBrusk probably hasn’t hurt.

“Cam is very focused and very professional at practice,” Nadeau said. “He’s a team captain and he lives up to that very well.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

What is a "sixth-rader?" Ugh

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