Local Nordic skiers excel at Eastern High School Championships

CHITTENDEN — Seven area skiers qualified for the culminating Nordic ski event, the Eastern High School Championships, which took place March 17-19 at Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden. The event features the top 24 boys and girls high school Nordic athletes grades 9-12 from the states of Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and New York totaling over 115 boys and 115 girls at the competition.
Ursula Volz and Malia Hodges qualified from the MUHS Girls Nordic Team; Sam Hodges, Tom Hussey, Cade Christner and Harlow Punderson from the MUHS boys Nordic Team. Middlebury resident Nick Wilkerson qualified as a member of Green Mountain Valley School Nordic Team.
Unfortunately, Malia Hodges had to withdraw from the event due to a concussion sustained while training prior to the event. The 9th grade skier will look forward to  more successful seasons ahead.
The weekend included a jam-packed schedule where the boys and girls competed in four races over three days. Friday featured a 5-km freestyle race where Volz, an MUHS senior, finished 16th. In the boys’ race Wilkerson and Sam Hodges lead the local field in 12th and 14th, respectively. Hussey was 29th, Punderson was 51st and Christner finished 69th.
The Saturday race ramped up early with a 7.5-km mass start race that was filled with action under perfect blue skies. In the boys’ race, Wilkerson finish a strong 4th place followed by Hodges (10th), Hussey (28th), Christner (61st) and Punderson (77th)
Volz finished the girls’ race in similar fashion as her freestyle race on Friday in 18th place.
Saturday afternoon the action continued with a wave start 1.2-km sprint freestyle race. Volz ground out another strong result in 21st, while Wilkerson and Hussey led the local boys contingent with 19th and 23rd places, respectively, immediately followed by Hodges in 24th. Punderson ended up 51st and Christner 59th to round out the boys sprint.
The final race of the weekend was a 4×2-km mixed relay that  had all local skiers competing on different teams. Massachusetts squeaked the overall relay win but Vermont took the next 4 spots from the rest of the New England field.  For the weekend Vermont skiers came away as Eastern High School Champions amassing 16,283 total points — more than 3,000 points ahead of second-place team Massachusetts, which posted 12,903 points.
“For Middlebury Nordic skiers this completes a hugely successful season where both girls’ and boys’ MUHS teams were crowned Division II sate champions,” MUHS co-coach Barney Hodges said. “The young team is excited about the year and looks forward to defending their titles.”
For the boys this year’s championship was repeat performance of 2015. Hussey, Hodges and Christner are all juniors this year and expect to return with hopes of a threepeet in 2018.   ADDISON COUNTY RACERS at the Eastern High School Championships in Chittenden were, from left, Tom Hussey, Cade Christner, Harlow Punderson, Ursula Volz, Sam Hodges and Malia Hodges. Missing from the photo was Middlebury resident Nick Wilkerson, who attends the Green Mountain Valley School.
Photo courtesy of Barney Hodges

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