Nordic skiing: Team New Hampshire bests Vermont, wins Eastern High School Championships for first time in nearly three decades

Lebanon's Olivia Hanna comes out of a tight corner when competing in the NHIAA D-II Nordic Ski Championship in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. Hanna placed first in the Eastern High School Championships on Sunday, March 17, 2024. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lebanon's Olivia Hanna comes out of a tight corner when competing in the NHIAA D-II Nordic Ski Championship in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. Hanna placed first in the Eastern High School Championships on Sunday, March 17, 2024. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Team New Hampshire celebrates its first Eastern High School Championship win in three decades at the Holderness School on March 17, 2024.

Team New Hampshire celebrates its first Eastern High School Championship win in three decades at the Holderness School on March 17, 2024. Courtesy photograph

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Concord Monitor

Published: 03-20-2024 10:24 AM

For the first time since 1995, Team New Hampshire took home the Eastern High School Championships title at the Holderness School on Sunday. The Nordic skiing competition features up to the top 48 skiers (24 boys and 24 girls) from each of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York.

“This is a pretty big thing for them,” said New Hampshire team leader Kevin Lee, who’s also the coach of the Kearsarge Regional High School Nordic team. “It’s a huge victory for them to be able to hold up and say, ‘Hey, we won it.’ There’s really great skiing that goes on, but a lot of times the battle is for second place.”

New Hampshire, with its 31,821 points, narrowly edged out Vermont, which finished with 31,222.

“It’s quite an accomplishment to be able to beat Vermont,” Lee said. “They have a lot of really strong skiers. That’s why it was such a big victory for us.”

Vermont’s long-term dominance in this championship stems from the fact that it has more ski academies and club programs than New Hampshire, which is more reliant on skiers from public schools, Lee explained. As a result, New Hampshire often has far less depth than its rival to the west.

But this year — and looking ahead to the future — that appears to be shifting.

“The depth has just grown,” Lee said. “It used to fall off pretty precipitously after you get below the 20th-ranked kid, and now we can pull up kids that are 35 in the ranking, and we don’t have a huge fall off as far as their ability. That’s really, really nice to see.

“I think it speaks to the quality of the coaching that we have in our state right now, the development that we do with our kids. I think more kids, they’re skiing at the middle school level in different places than we have in the past. I really think that has to do with the quality of the coaching that we have in the state. We have some really, really fine coaches all around the state that are making strides in how our kids are skiing.”

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Olivia Hanna (Lebanon), Elli Englund (Plymouth), Ella Ronci (Plymouth) and Addi Englund (Plymouth) finished in the top four spots respectively in overall individual scoring on the girls’ side. Meanwhile, Oliver Wilson (Dublin) and Matthew Clarner (Hopkinton) finished first and third, respectively, in overall individual scoring on the boys’ side.

Ronci won the girls’ 5K skate race, Elli Englund won the 7.5K classic mass start and Hanna won the 1.2K sprint race that includes obstacles and jumps. Wilson won the boys’ 5K skate race and the 1.2K sprint race.

Hanna also contributed a runner-up finish in the girls 5K freestyle to her day, finishing in 16:09.9.

Woodstock’s Quinn Uva and Joey Sluka both had big days for Vermont. Uva won the boys 7.5K mass start classic in 24:47.6, took third in the 5K free (14:22.6) and 10th in the sprint (2:56.2). Sluka claimed eight in the classic (26:00.6), 12th in the free (15:05.3) and 23rd in the sprint (3:01.6).

The Wasps’ Isabel Cellini raced for the Vermont girls, taking 34th in the free, 37th in the sprint and 64th in the classic.