Girls’ Nordic Athlete of the Season: Kearsarge’s Lili Baer

  • Kearsarge sophomore Lili Baer (second from right in blue yellow) starts a race at the Nordic Meet of Champions at Proctor Academy on March 12. Baer finished third. She was also Keararge’s top point scorer as the team won the Division III championships and finished as the top public school in the NH Coaches Series. SCOTT FITZGERALD/ Kearsarge Athletics

  • Kearsarge sophomore Lili Baer (third from right) poses with the other top finishers at the Nordic Skiing Meet of Champions at Proctor Academy on March 12, including her sister and teammate, Marliese Baer (far left) and Concord’s Katie Watt (far right). Lili Baer was also Keararge’s top point scorer as the team won the Division III championships and finished as the top public school in the NH Coaches Series. SCOTT FITZGERALD/ Kearsarge Athletics

  • Kearsarge’s Lili Baer competes at the Nordic Meet of Champions at Proctor Academy on March 12. Baer was Kearsarge’s top point scorer as the team won the D-III championships and finished as the top public school in the NH Coaches Series. SCOTT FITZGERALD / Kearsarge Athletics

  • Kearsarge sophomore Lili Baer competes at the Nordic Meet of Champions at Proctor Academy on March 12. Baer was Keararge’s top point scorer as the team won the Division III championships and finished as the top public school in the NH Coaches Series. SCOTT FITZGERALD/ Kearsarge Athletics

  • Kearsarge sophomore Lili Baer competes at the Nordic Meet of Champions at Proctor Academy on March 12. Baer was Keararge’s top point scorer as the team won the Division III championships and finished as the top public school in the NH Coaches Series. SCOTT FITZGERALD / Kearsarge Athletics

Monitor staff
Published: 3/22/2019 2:39:45 PM

Her sport is demanding, and Kearsarge’s Lili Baer is willing to give Nordic skiing what it demands the most.

“She’s got incredible focus and competitive drive that just comes out at every single race,” Kearsarge coach Kevin Lee said of Baer, the Monitor Girls’ Nordic Athlete of the Season. “And every single race she goes in there and she wants to compete and she wants to get up on that podium.”

Baer, just a sophomore, found her way to plenty of podiums this season. She took third, and was the Cougars’ top finisher, in both the classic and freestyle races as the Division III championships, leading Kearsarge to its fourth consecutive division title. She was second in the classic and third in the freestyle at last week’s Meet of Champions at Proctor Academy.

Even when she wasn’t on the podium, or having her best day, Baer helped the Cougars achieve some lofty goals at the NH Coaches Series. That two-day event is open to all public and private schools in the state and is the most prestigious event of the high school season.

“I fell in the classic race downhill pretty hard, and then in the skate race I fell uphill because I got my ski caught and then I held up a bunch of people, so that was bad,” Baer said.

Still, she finished 11th in that skate (also known as freestyle) race and 14th in the classic race, and Kearsarge finished the event as the top public school girls’ team and second overall, behind only Holderness.

“At our organizational meeting at the beginning of the year we asked them to come up with a couple of team goals, and that was their performance-related goal, to be the best public school team in the state, and then they went out and did it,” Lee said.

Baer started skiing as a little kid in her backyard and began competitive skiing with the Andover Outing Club when she was in sixth grade. She wasn’t winning races right away, “I finished next-to-last in one race I remember,” Baer said, but that didn’t stop her from enjoying it. Eventually she started getting stronger and more fit, training in the offseason, refining her form … and winning.

“She’s a gifted athlete and she’s been working really, really, really hard and getting better and better with her technique,” Lee said. “It’s pretty amazing to see.”

Baer’s final races this season were at the New England Nordic Ski Association’s U16 Championships in Bethel, Maine. She finished 10th in the classic race, and was the third New Hampshire finisher, and placed 18th in the freestyle race.

While Baer’s mix of drive, talent and skill pushed her to the front of most races this winter, Kearsarge’s team success came from its great depth. Junior Marliese Baer, Lili’s older sister, finished ahead of her sister and in seventh place at the NH Coaches Series freestyle race. Marliese finished sixth in the classic and fourth in the freestyle, just one spot behind her sister, at the D-III championship, and she is team’s de facto leader.

“The glue that sort of holds the team together is Marliese, she’s more the leader of the crew,” Lee said.

“She definitely pushes me to get better,” Lili said of her older sister. “In the workouts she’s the one pacing us a lot, and she’s always cheering and supporting everyone.”

Marlia Richer is also a big part of Kearsarge’s depth. The sophomore finished sixth in both the classic and freestyle races at the Meet of Champions and was fifth in the classic and sixth in the freestyle at the D-III meet. Junior Jenna Bears also posted a pair of top-10 D-III results for the Cougars, finishing seventh in the freestyle and eighth in the classic. Junior Ada Gardner also had a pair of top-10 D-III results for Kearsarge, taking ninth in both races, but the team was so deep it didn’t even need to count those results because only the top four skiers score.

The Cougars figured that with all that talent they might as well shoot for being the best public school team in the state. They also wanted to make sure they had a good time doing it.

“We also asked them for a non-performance goal and for that one the girls said they wanted to keep having fun, and they did have fun,” Lee said.

They even had a headquarters for that fun – the clubhouse. It was only a run-down shack in an abandoned sand pit off a skimobile trail, but the Cougars went there as often as they could.

“If we were doing a lower distance day or something like that, that would always be their first question,” Lee said. “I would tell them this group had to do 10K or this group 15K, and as soon I said that it would be, ‘And then what?’ And I would say, ‘If you want to go to the clubhouse you can go.’ ”

The main draw at the clubhouse was the steep hill of the sand pit and the hilarious, yard-sale falls the kids would take as they skied down it. There were also snowball fights, team videos and, clearly, the completing of the team’s non-performance goal.

“We have so much fun,” Baer said.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)




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