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Monitor Girls’ Nordic Skier of the Season: Hopkinton’s Emma Rothe

  • Hopkinton’s Emma Rothe (right) competes at the Division IV Nordic Ski Championships at Great Glen Trails in Grant’s Green on March 3. Rothe won both the classic and skate races to lead Hopkinton to its second straight title. GEORGE SABOL file / Courtesy

  • The Rothe family poses at Great Glen Trails in Grant’s Green after their Hopkinton High girls’ Nordic team won a second-straight Division IV championship. Senior Emma (left) was first in both the freestyle and classic races and freshman Ava (right) was second in the freestyle and fifth in the classic for their coach and father, Rob (center). Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 3/25/2020 5:21:19 PM

Emma Rothe won the freestyle race at the Division IV Nordic championships during all four of her seasons skiing for Hopkinton High. This year, she also won the D-IV classic race as she led the Hawks to a second straight team title. She was runner-up in both events at the Meet of Champions and she was an easy choice to be the Monitor Girls’ Nordic Skier of the Season.

Rothe enjoyed all the success, especially the team wins. But before she was ever in a Nordic race, before she ever felt the thrill of the podium, she fell in love with the sport for its own sake.

“Just learning something new was fun for me, and I really did like the sport when I first tried it out, even though we weren’t racing,” Rothe said. “It was relaxing, and I fell in love with the skiing first, and then I fell in love with racing after.”

Rothe was introduced to the sport when she was in elementary school through the Bill Koch League, the Hopkinton program that has helped create a thriving Nordic community in the town and school system. The person who brought Rothe to the BKL was her father, Rob, who was also Emma’s Nordic coach for the last three years, as well as her coach on the Hopkinton cross country team in the fall and on the outdoor track & field team in the spring.

“I was definitely a little skeptical at first about having my dad as a coach, but it’s really been great,” Emma said. “It’s great to have that bridge to my dad. I always know what’s going on since I have this direct connection to the coach, and I think it’s been good for our team.”

Coach/dad Rothe has also enjoyed the multi-faceted relationship.

“I wasn’t sure in the beginning how it would go, but I think it’s worked out well,” Rob said. “When an athlete lives with their coach, it’s hard for them to escape workouts and other things like that, but it’s been a great dynamic for us, and she’s been my go-to for four years now, and that connection to the team has also been really good for everyone.”

Nordic racing began for Emma in middle school, but she wasn’t among the fastest skiers back then. It wasn’t until she went to high school and ran cross country in the fall before the winter ski season that she started earning post-race trips to the podium.

“When my fitness level improved, my results improved,” she said. “And having that base fitness level, I was able to work more on my technique, so that helped with the results, too.”

Emma also went to work building up the base of the team itself. The Hopkinton girls won 10 straight D-IV Nordic titles from 2005-2014, but when Emma arrived as a freshman in 2017, the program was in a lull. So she and her classmate Lily Sabol recruited their friends to join and encouraged the middle schoolers who were skiing to stick with it when they got to high school.

“Now they’ve built it up to where we have 20 girls on the roster, and it’s really an amazing thing that she and Lily have done,” coach Rothe said.

The recruitment efforts paid off with a championship in 2019. After that season, Emma took her individual training to another level.

“I really wanted to improve my technique. I haven’t been skiing since I was really young like some of the other top skiers, so I wanted to work on my technique, and I knew summer training was a great way to do that,” Emma said. “And last year I also decided that I wanted to ski in college, so I used that for motivation, too.”

Her coach got to witness the increased training up close, and he was impressed.

“Through the years she’s worked hard at it both during the season and in the offseason, and this year I would say she definitely put in more time, starting in the summer,” Rob said. “She did a lot more roller skiing and running, and then during the season she also did a lot more races outside of the high school schedule, and all that definitely helped her have the kind of season she just had.”

The first big results of the winter for Emma and the Hawks came at the N.H. Coaches Series, a two-race event that is open to all public and private high schools in the state. Emma was 11th overall in both the classic and freestyle races (which were held on two separate Saturdays, Feb. 1 and Feb. 22) and Hopkinton finished second as a team behind only Holderness, a private school.

At the D-IV championships on March 3, Emma won her fourth straight freestyle title in a time of 15:17.1. The second place finisher who came across the line in 15:51.6 was Hopkinton freshman Ava Rothe, Emma’s younger sister. Derryfield’s Katherine Gage was third in 16:04.3, but after that it was three Hawks – Frances Trafton in fourth followed by Lily Sabol and Hannah Bennett.

Hopkinton didn’t let anyone else break into the top five in the classic race. Emma won in 18:31.4 and she was followed, in order, by Trafton (18:38.6), Sabol, Cate Westbrook and Ava Rothe. The end result was 786 team points and a dominating win against second-place Inter-Lakes (733) and the rest of the six-team field.

“We knew coming into it that we had the strongest team since I’ve been here,” Emma said after the race, “but it was still a nice surprise to finish like that.”

A week later, competing against the top skiers from all four divisions, Emma took second in both the classic and freestyle races at the Meet of Champions at Proctor Academy. Gilford’s Catherine Stow finished first in both events. Sabol took fourth in the classic race and Ava Rothe was fourth in the freestyle.

Emma had also qualified to compete in the Eastern Regionals, but that was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, so the MOC was her final Nordic event wearing a Hopkinton uniform.

“It was unexpected for that to be my last high school race,” Emma said, “but I was definitely happy with my results and I think that was a pretty good way to end the season.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at or on Twitter @timosullivan20)

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