SENIOR NATIONALS RECAP by Ben Grasseschi

Did you know that there are 13 cemeteries within a 40 mile radius of Rumford, Maine? And that many of the dated gravestones are likely older than the length of your classic skis in years. Rumford is after-all, on the East Coast and not far inland, making it an easy stop for the first settlers to this country. Situated on a large river in south-central Maine, Rumford is a classic brick and mortar industrial town whose economy is almost solely based on the large paper-mill still operating there.
However, approximately every four to six years this drab little town of about 5000 people is run over by lycra clad skiers searching for a little color of their own
This year the color skiers were most coveting was white. As in, white is the color of snow.
When the Far West contingent of athletes; Junior Skiers, Annika Taylor and Austin Meng, and, Farm Team Member, Chlesea Holmes, arrived in Rumford late on New Year’s Eve 2010, there was very little snow on the ground and a light rain was falling. Too tired from the long day of travel from Reno and Alaska (Chelsea) to be too concerned, we all went to sleep.
Early morning inspection of the course the next day proved that indeed there was very little snow and what was there was super dirty. On both sides of the ski tracks was dirt and grass and rocks and evidence that the race crews had been busy shoveling what little snow was on-hand to provide some white stuff to the dirt. Temperatures hovered in the mid-40′sF and with lows of mid 30′s there was no chance of making snow.
However, the first race, a Classic Sprint, went as well as could be expected given the conditions. The tracks were wet and almost slushy and warm klister was the kick wax choice for the day. Chelsea missed qualifying for the heats by a small margin and Annika and Austin both had solid results in the Junior field. Far West Farm Team member Matt Gelso won the U-23 Heats.
The next day was a training day and we drove an hour northwest to ski on some quintessential (rolling and tumbling through large maples and birches) New England trails at Great Glen Nordic Center, just below the infamous Mt Washington (place of the highest recorded wind speed anywhere). The snow was firm and sparse but it was white and a nice change. We came back to Great Glen the next day too as the race venue was closed to all training so the race organizers could make snow. Fortunately for all, the temps had dropped significantly and snow making went in full force for the remaining time we were there.
Wednesday’s race was a Classic mid-distance. Waxing was a little tricky- some early starters were on hard wax, then klister covered with hard wax was working well, and some skiers went brave and skied on ‘zero’ skis but these provided mixed results. Far West went with the Glenn Jobe Special- klister covered. Chelsea had a strong finish in 18th. Annika and Austin had decent results in the junior fields.
Thursday was a training day and we took a break to wander the countryside of Maine, visiting quaint Maine town; Bethel, and checking out a sweet covered bridge, the kind you only find in New England.
Friday was the first Skate race of the week. The snowmaking was pushed around and a 2.5km loop was rescued from the depths of the dirt. Chelsea did 8 laps, for 20km, on this course. And, she did them Fast; placing 7th overall. For much of the race she was skiing with 2010 Olympian, Caitlin Compton, and finished only 42 seconds behind winner, and USST member, Liz Stephen. Annika (50th) and Austin (36th) both had their best races of the week, both skiing well and pushing themselves hard on the tough course. Far West ‘graduate’ Joanne Reid won the Junior Girls race by over 15 seconds.
Saturday marked the end of the week’s racing with a Skate Sprint. Even seemingly constant temperatures can change the snow so Coach Ben was doing multiple laps testing all kinds of ‘speedlayers’ for the best glide. Chelsea skied well and surprised herself a little bit by making the Senior Heats. She skied well in the first quarter-final heat but “died” up the last hill and ended up finishing a very respectable 28th overall. Annika finished 76th and Austin tied his place from the day before in 36th.
All-in-all it was a great event with the Chisholm Ski Club Race Organizers pulling off diamond quality races given the lump of coal Mother Nature had thrown them.
Far West skiers did very well in what was probably the deepest, and biggest, field of competitors at a Senior Nationals in recent memory. They should all be proud of themselves. And, happy to be back in the land of snow and gravestones less than 50 years old.
Epilogue:
Joanne Reid qualified for the World Junior Races in Estonia, starting later this month. Matt Gelso was first alternate in the U-23 men’s field, also traveling to Estonia in late January. Chelsea Holmes skied right in the mix of the best women in the US,-she was definitely “Fiercest of the Fierce”.  Annika and Austin had some super solid races as well. Far West ‘graduate’, Alex Hamilton, currently attending Bates College (just up the road in Lewiston, Maine) skied well, especially in the Classic Sprint, and long time Far Wester and Coach, Martin Benes, now Asst Coach at Bates College, provided much entertainment, as always, tho he disappointed us all by not showing up for the laser tag shoot-out…

And, on a related note, recent Far West ‘graduate’ Russell Kennedy, qualified for and will be attending World Juniors in Estonia as a Canadian! Since July he has been up there in Canmore, Alberta, skiing and training. Way to Go! Hosehead.

Way to Go Far West!