D-I Nordic: Bow boys finish 2nd behind Pelletier’s classic title, several MOC qualifiers

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Monitor staff
Published: 3/10/2022 11:52:16 PM

When the Bow High Nordic skiing team made the jump to Division I last year, the Falcons knew it would be a challenge.

The Falcon boys finished second to Hanover in Thursday’s D-I state championship at the Great Glen Trails in Pinkham Notch, N.H., for the second year in a row. As remarkable as Bow’s inaugural season in D-I was, this year’s margin was even closer.

Hanover won the boys’ team title with 751 points, followed by the Falcons (739), Keene (719), Winnacunnet (692), ConVal (634) and Concord (621), rounding out the top six of 11 teams.

Kennett (757) won the girls’ team title with Hanover (726), Keene (717), Concord (679), ConVal (653) and Bow (634) rounding out the top six of the 12 girls’ squads competing.

The Falcons were led by the Pelletier siblings, with senior Michael winning the boys’ classic title in 12:33.4, crushing the rest of the field in the 4K race. 

Winnacunnet’s Felix Taracena (13:21.4) was the runner-up – 48 seconds behind.

Fellow senior Oliver Dolcino (fourth, 13:38), junior Calen Smith (11th, 15:23) and sophomore Eli Wilkening (22nd, 16:11) also scored for Bow in the classic.

“Our top three boys had the fastest classic races they have ever skied,” said Bow head coach Chris Naimie. 

As strong as a morning classic race the Falcons had, with the champion Bears only ahead 376-368, the afternoon skate race was even better.

Once again, Pelletier challenged the leaders, finishing third in 13:40, while Keene’s Jonathan Hills won in 12:39.1, but the five remaining Bow skiers all crossed the line in personal-best times.

The result was that Hanover was only able to win the skate race, as a team, by four points (375-371), and a 12-point lead overall.

Hanover won by 48 points in 2021.

Dolcino (sixth, 14:02), Smith (10th, 14:52), Wilkening (14th, 15:41) and sophomore rookie Aiden Ciminesi (18th, 15:51) all qualified for the Meet of Champions by finishing in the top 20, while senior Karl Anderson (23rd, 16:18) just missed the cut.

“Winning things is always nice, but having the opportunity to see a team up and down the order, basically skiing out of their minds, is so much fun,” Naimie said. “It was really rewarding. This team has worked really well, and hard, they’re super supportive of one another.”

Junior Rachel Pelletier finished fourth in the girls’ classic race in 15:27 (Kennett’s Carli Krebs won in 14:32.3) but had hoped for a better finish. She didn’t wait long to get one, finishing second in the skate race with a massive effort of 15:12.7, once again behind Krebs (14:45.8) but about 53 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

“We knew that (Rachel) would be challenging for the top five,” Naimie said. “She didn’t feel like she really found a great rhythm in the classic race, but used that thought that, ‘I have some unfinished business,’ in the skate race. The biggest gap in the field was behind her. She did a phenomenal job.”

Mary McCarthy (29th classic, 30th skate), Savannah Betterley (33rd classic, 40th skate), Courtney McKeen (38th classic) and Ali Sargent (41st skate) were the other scoring skiers for the sixth-place Falcon girls.

Michael Pelletier, Dolcino, Anderson, McCarthy and Betterley were part of an exceptional group of 12 seniors that Naimie credited with “forming a solid leadership nucleus” for the program.

After Bow was well into its season, the coaching staff realized they hadn’t discussed captains yet and brought it up to the seniors.

“(The seniors) said that, ‘We don't need to do that; we all worked on this together.’ They said that going through that process of selecting captains wasn’t going to help us,” Naimie said. “They wanted to recognize that they all brought something unique and different to the team and celebrate that. They always rose to the occasion.”

The fourth-place Concord girls were also led by a strong group of seniors, with Mathea Graham finishing sixth in the skate (16:17) and 13th in the classic (16:32) to lead the Tide in both events.

“That was really exciting to see,” Concord head coach Erin Waters said. “She really seemed to come into her own. It was really fun to watch her.”

Alexis Christie (15th, 17:10), Gracie McHugh (18th, 17:25) and Phoebe Dater-Roberts (21st, 17:50) were Concord’s other scoring skiers in the skate. Chloe Gudas (19th, 17:02), McHugh (21st, 17:08) and Francis Lesser (24th, 17:20) scored for the Tide in the classic.

Waters took over as the head coach this year after previously serving as an assistant and credited Graham, Katie Martel (29th classic) and Colette Brochu (35th skate) – the only three seniors to ski on Thursday and three of four seniors in the entire program (all girls) – with helping the changes in the coaching staff of the young squad go smoothly.

“All four of our seniors have been wonderful leaders throughout this season, helping the team find it’s camaraderie and the energy that makes this all fun,” Waters said.

On the boys’ side, Jacob Gurtner stepped up as the top skier for Concord, with usual No. 1 Tyler Watt away competing at Junior Nationals. Gurtner was 14th in 15:44 in the classic and 24th in 16:22 in the skate.

Elliot Pollard (25th classic, 26th skate), Sebastian Nichols (27th classic, 27th skate), Anthony Lombardi (35th skate) and Nicholas Hewey (40th classic) were the other scoring skiers for the Tide.

Both Waters and Naimie expressed gratitude for the staff at Great Glen Trails for getting the 4K course (one 2K loop skied twice) ready. The D-I championships were originally scheduled for Tuesday but were postponed to Thursday after last weekend’s unseasonably warm temperatures melted most of the snow.

“That whole team of trail maintenance that put together the race essentially put together a miracle by putting the kids on snow,” Waters said. “They pulled together a great race (and a course) that held up.”

Area Nordic teams are just as hopeful that additional unseasonably warm weather holds off until after Tuesday, the date for the Meet of Champions and the final race on the NHIAA calendar, which will be held at Proctor Academy.

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