MUHS Nordic teams sweep state titles

RIPTON — A huge day on their home course gave the Middlebury Union High School Nordic teams a sweep of the Division II championships on Monday — for the second straight winter.
Skiing in the classic discipline in soft snow at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, the Tiger girls overcame the 21-point lead (28-49) that rival U-32 had amassed in Friday freestyle racing at Craftsbury Nordic Center to edge the U-32 Raiders, 78-84, clinching the state championship with a dominant relay performance.
The Tiger boys entered Monday ahead of U-32 by just three, 41-44, but like the girls’ team placed all four scorers in the top 10 in the classic race and then cruised to a big relay win to pull away for a final 69-94 margin over the Raiders. It was the third consecutive year for the boys team to win the state championship.
The Tiger girls’ and boys’ teams times would have been good enough to defeat Mount Mansfield Union High School, which won both of the D-I titles.
The Tigers’ Hodges brother-sister duo led both teams in the freestyle and classic events.
Tiger senior Sam Hodges swept both individual boys’ 5-kilometer races and anchored the Tiger boys’ relay wins in both disciplines, while classmate Tom Hussey finished third on both days. Seniors Julian Schmitt and Cade Christner cracked the top 10 on Monday for the boys, were the third and fourth scorers on Friday, and joined Hodges and Hussey in winning both relays.
For the Tiger girls, sophomore Malia Hodges won the 5K skate skiing on Friday and finished second in the classic 5K on Monday. Seniors Isabel Rosenberg and Caroline Kimble cracked the top 10 on both days, and senior Katherine Koehler reached the top 10 on Monday and was the fourth scorer on Friday. Those four won the decisive relay on Monday by almost two minutes and finished second to U-32 in Friday’s skate relay.
First-year Coach Linnea Manley said the Tiger girls believed they could overcome their big deficit on Monday.
“We knew that they had a really good fighting chance. The team in general is really well at classic skiing,” Manley said. “And we knew 20 points was not unreachable. They knew that. They kept telling themselves that. They knew that was a doable goal.”
The Tiger boys, Manley said, believed they had the upper hand on Monday, but took nothing for granted against the Raiders, who had raced them neck-and-neck all winter.
“I don’t think the boys were too cocky about it. I think they knew they were going to have to work hard and keep it up,” Manley said. “They kept that in their mind. That was great.”
Overall, Manley said the Tigers’ work ethic and love of Nordic skiing made the difference, with some help from their home course.
“They really, really wanted it. They had a lot of drive. They’re just really dedicated to the sport, which I think makes a huge difference,” Manley said. “Also the fact that this was on our home course was really nice. It gave us a little home advantage. But I would argue a lot of it was their dedication and hard work on the team’s part.”
Manley would argue Rikert’s impact probably was greater earlier in the winter than on Monday. Several meets were canceled due to cold weather and big storms, but the Tigers were able to stay on their skis and keep working.
“We kept practicing and focusing on our end goal and focusing on doing the best we could and skiing as much and as well as we could,” Manley said. “We are lucky in getting to ski at Rikert because they had snow for us basically all the way through.”
She also credited veteran assistant coaches Barney Hodges, Bruce Ingersoll, Ben Rosenberg and Keith Wilkerson.
“I had some really great coaching staff around me who had such great knowledge and great experience,” Manley said. “I just kind of got to be there for the ride and be there for the experience, which was wonderful.”
And she’s happy for the Tigers.
“They’re a good bunch. I’m going to miss being out there on the snow every day with them,” she said. “I’m really excited for the team and looking forward to what’s going to happen next year.”
The final D-II girls’ team scores were: MUHS, 78; U-32, 84; Harwood, 131; Burr & Burton, 255; Peoples, 269; BFA-Fairfax, 325; and Lamoille, 373.
The final D-II boys’ team scores were: MUHS, 69; U-32, 94; Woodstock, 196; Stowe, 296; Harwood and Lamoille, 362; Burr and Burton, 374; Lyndon, 385; and BFA-Fairfax, 428.
Girls’ top 10, 5K classic on Monday at Rikert were: 1. Jordan Kulis, Harwood, 16:24.3; 2. Hodges, MUHS, 17:03.4; 3. Olivia Brooks, Woodstock, 17:49.1; 4. Addy Harris, Independent, 17:50.1; 5. Ruby Lamb, U-32, 18:30.5; 6. Rosenberg, MUHS, 18:31; 7. Erin Magill, Harwood, 18:33.1; 8. Koehler, MUHS, 18:44.7; 9. Kimble, MUHS, 18:47.7; 10. Kyle Marie Hekeler, Harwood, 18:50.6.
Girls’ classic relay (all were 4×2.5K): 1. MUHS (Rosenberg, Koehler, Kimble, Hodges) 37:38.1; 2. U-32, 39:30; 3. Harwood, 41:51.3; 4. Burr & Burton, 44:22.2; 5. Fairfax, 46:22.8; 6. Peoples, 46:49; 7. Lamoille, 47:05.9.
Boys’ top 10 classic 5K: 1. Hodges, MUHS, 14:37.4; 2. Nathan Smoller, U-32, 15:25.1; 3. Hussey, MUHS, 15:48.3; 4. Nathaniel Wells, Stowe, 15:52.6; 5. Matthew Bassette, Woodstock, 15:57.1; 6. Julian Schmitt, MUHS, 16:08.9; 7. Trevor Patterson, U-32, 16:21.9; 8. Cade Christner, MUHS, 16:26.4; 9. Greyson Davis, U-32, 16:30.8; 10. Makail Tipton, Independent, 16:39.6.
Boys’ classic relay: 1. MUHS (Hussey, Christner, Schmitt, Hodges) 30:10.5; 2. U-32, 32:06.3; 3. Woodstock, 32:59.7; 4. Stowe, 34:45.2; 5. Lamoille, 36:49.6; 6. Fairfax, 36:52.6; 7. Lyndon, 37:21.8; 8. Harwood, 37:27.8; 9. Burr & Burton, 39:01.4.
Girls top 10 freestyle skiing: 1. Hodges, MUHS, 16:10.3; 2. Brooks, Woodstock, 16:29.4; 3. Kulis, Harwood, 16:36; 4. Harris, Independent, 16:38.3; 5. May Lamb, U-32, 17:00.7; 6. Rebecca Thompson, U-32 17:04.3; 7. Julia Oliver, U-32 17:10; 8. Ruby Lamb, U-32 17:43.9; 9. Kimble, MUHS, 17:55; 10. Rosenberg, MUHS, 18:19.5; 16: Koehler, MUHS, 18:40.4.
Girls’ freestyle relay: 1. U-32, 22:44.6; 2. MUHS (Rosenberg, Kimble, Koehler, Hodges), 23:52; 3. Harwood, 24:41.8; 4. Peoples, 26:59.8; 5. Fairfax 27:58.3; 6. Burr & Burton, 29:05.6; 7. Lamoille, 30:20.8.
Boys’ top 10 freestyle skiing: 1. Hodges, MUHS, 12:57.1; 2. Matthew Bassette, Wood 13:43.2; 3. Hussey, MUHS, 14:00.4; 4. Trevor Patterson, U-32 14:02.7; 5. Nathan Moller, U-32 14:09.6; 6. Justice Bassette, Wood 14:15.8; 7. Jacob Bradley, U-32 14:17.7; 8. Waylon Kurts, U-32 14:30; 9. Nathaniel Wells, Stowe 14:47.2; 10. Jed Kurts, U-32 14:49.
Boys’ freestyle relay: 1. MUHS (Hussey, Schmitt, Christner, Hodges), 19:00.5; 2. U-32, 19:10; 3. Woodstock, 19:35.4; 4. Burr & Burton, 22:16.9; 5. Stowe, 22:17.7; 6. Lyndon, 22:31.6; 7. Harwood, 22:51.7; 8. Lamoille, 23:10; 9. Fairfax, 23:48.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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