Local skiers help Vermont to victory

CHITTENDEN — Racing in spring-like conditions on March 16, 17 and 18, six local athletes — all members of Ripton’s Frost Mountain Nordic Ski Club — helped their Vermont team win the Eastern High School Championships against the rest of the New England states and New York.
Competing for Vermont were Bristol’s Alia Johnson, Ripton’s Britta Clark and Lydia Allen, Middlebury’s Dominique Powers, and Cornwall’s Mac Groves and Will Conlon.
All except Johnson are also members of the Middlebury Union High School Nordic team, while Johnson trains with the team during the winter months. Clark, Allen and Powers were part of the MUHS girls’ team that won the Division II championship, Clark was the individual D-II champion, and Johnson was the second-place finisher in both the classical and skate races in the Vermont D-II competition.
On March 16, Rutland’s Grace Wright was the top Vermont finisher in the girls’ 4.8-kilometer skate race, which drew 113 competitors; Wright was fifth. Among the local racers, Johnson’s 17th-place effort was tops; she was the fifth Vermont skier across the finish line. Clark was 20th, Allen 38th, and Powers was 63rd.
In the boys’ 4.8k in cloudy and rainy conditions, Groves took 21st and was the sixth Vermont finisher, while Conlon took 59th.
In 70-degree conditions for Saturday’s 4.8k classical races, Britta Clark was the top Frost Mountain finisher on the girls’ side, taking 17th. Allen and Johnson finished 34th and 38th, respectively, with Powers just behind them in 48th.
On the boys’ side, Groves and Conlon were 40th and 49th, respectively.
On Saturday afternoon, the skiers competed in a 1k skate sprint race. Groves moved up to 26th, and Conlon was 53rd despite being only 4.5 seconds behind Groves.
Johnson and Clark were the sixth and seventh Vermont finishers in 22nd and 23rd, respectively, with Johnson edging Clark by a tenth of a second. Allen and Powers took 40th and 44th and were only 0.24 seconds apart.
Even though the Massachusetts team prevailed in a mixed-gender relay race held on Sunday, Vermont had earned enough points to win the team title, according to Frost Mountain coach Cam MacKugler.
MacKugler noted that at the earlier Junior Nationals competition the New England team, including Vermonters, had won the Alaska Cup as the strongest region for the fourth straight season.
This past weekend’s regional win for Vermont led MacKugler to what he called a logical conclusion.
“This past weekend solidified the claim that the best junior racers in the country are from New England, and the best racers in New England are from Vermont,” he said. 

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