Concord Nordic teams claim 10th straight Division I titles

  • Oliver Spencer reaches for the finish line as he finished third in the boys classic race with a time of 12:06. JONATHAN VAN FLEET—Monitor staff

  • ABOVE: Nate Nichols skis to a win in the boys’ classic race with a time of 10:53. Concord swept the top five spots of the boys’ classic race at Great Glen Trails in Gorham Monday, and had all six of its skiers finish in the top 10. JONATHAN VAN FLEET photosMonitor staff

  • Cameron Brochu skis on his way to a second-place finish behind teammate Nate Nichols in the boys’ classic race with a time of 11:40. JONATHAN VAN FLEET—Monitor staff

  • Concord senior Brenna McNamara finished fourth with a time of 15:13. JONATHAN VAN FLEET—Monitor staff

  • Concord junior Heather Deacon won the girls’ classic race with a time of 14:27. JONATHAN VAN FLEET—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

There was a last-minute venue switch, a nasty spill, a skier racing in his warmup gear and another competitor who missed his start time by nearly four minutes. Not exactly an ideal scenario for the Concord Nordic ski teams during Monday’s Division I championships.

But also not much of a problem for a program that’s done nothing but win state titles since 2009.

Both the Concord boys’ and girls’ Nordic teams overcame any obstacles in sight, stealing the show at Great Glen Trails and capping off a decade of excellence with their 10th straight Division I championships.

“I think the takeaway for me having a program that’s won this title for 10 years in a row is Concord succeeds not just because of the coaches, it’s successful because there’s an infrastructure in place,” Concord Nordic coach Sam Evans-Brown said. “There’s a whole pipeline of support that delivers me skiers who are ready to go fast as soon as they get into the program and I think 10 years of solid results is really a testament to the community’s commitment to the sport.”

For the boys, Concord swept the top-five spots in the classic race and qualified all six of its skiers for the Meet of Champions. The Tide also grabbed a 1-2-3 sweep in the freestyle race for a total score of 787 – a comfortable margin ahead of runner-up Keene at 738.5.

The Concord girls, led by Heather Deacon’s first-place finish in the classic race, took home the title over Bishop Guertin, 771-743. Brenna McNamara, freshman Katie Watt, Johanne Nichols and Sophie Johnson all finished in the top 10 of the classic, with Deacon taking second in the freestyle, followed by Watt (fifth overall, 13:00.9), Julie Deacon (sixth, 13:48.8), McNamara (eighth, 14:02.3) and Michaela Hayes (ninth, 14:37.6).

“We just have a lot of skiers who come in and just grow with the team,” said Heather Deacon, who along with younger sister Julie qualified for the MOCs in the freestyle. “We have a great coaching staff, we have great upperclassmen who are great role models for the team and we’ve had that for a long time now.”

Although, it wasn’t all fist pumps and smiles for Concord – at least not in the moment.

Due to a mix-up at the start of the skate race, Cam Brochu and Nate Nichols almost missed their runs entirely. After taking an extra lap thinking they had time to spare before the race, Nichols got back just in time and flew down the mountain in his warm-up skis and gear to finish third overall.

Brochu ended up missing his start time by 3 minutes, 48 seconds, and still finished in 14:35.1 – good for 21st overall. Senior Oliver Spencer won the race in 11:06.8.

“The skate race pretty much fell apart for me,” Nichols said. “We got back late on my warm-up so I had to start the race just as I got back and wasn’t able to get ready. ... I still finished third, but that was disappointing because I’m always going for first. But I was happy that my teammate (Spencer) did really well. He’s been a strong skater throughout high school so I’m happy he got first.”

Another mishap for the boys came in the classic race. While Nichols (first overall, 10:53.6), Brochu (second, 11:40.7), Spencer (third, 12:06.5), Antonino Tomas (fourth, 12:53.2) and sophomore Gavin Graham (fifth, 13:02.3) swept the top-five spots, Jordan Blanchard hit the ice hard.

The senior fell during his run, receiving a cut on his head, but still gutted out a 10th-place finish in 14:30.9 to qualify for the MOCs.

Not bad for someone who just started skiing this year.

“(Blanchard) is a strong and fit guy, but the technique is hard to learn so it was pretty exciting to see him qualify,” Evans-Brown said. “And by the skin of his teeth, too. He had a pretty hard crash because of the conditions and still managed to sneak in there.”

Evans-Brown described the conditions in the morning race as “nightmarish” due to the freezing rain that swept over the area in the night before. The championships, originally scheduled to take place at Gunstock Mountain Resort, were moved to Great Glen in a late switch due to lack of snow.

None of that prevented two youngsters from shining.

Freshmen Eben Bragg and Watt both showed off just how deep the Concord Nordic teams are. Bragg placed second overall in the freestyle, finishing right behind Spencer in 11:18.3, while Watt posted fifth-place finishes in both events.

“It’s great to watch these young kids have awesome races,” Heather Deacon said. “It shows the team has depth and they will be able to carry the team along with the others for the next few years and hopefully get another win next year.”

The Tide will send all but three skiers to the Meet of Champions which is scheduled to take place Tuesday at Proctor Academy. Juniors Lucas Tomas, Johanna Van Fleet and freshman Morgan Orcutt all narrowly missed out on qualifying. Tomas took 12th in the skate race, Orcutt was 11th in the skate race and Van Fleet placed 12th overall in the classic.

“I think the kids really do enjoy the day because any time you’re racing twice in a day, it sort of feels like an event,” Evans-Brown said. “Then there’s a big award ceremony and so the whole tradition of it is really valuable for them.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)