Not much changed from the Spring Fling in vibe and conditions for the New England Club Relay Championships hosted by Mansfield Nordic. It was another Blue Bird day for cross-country skiing that started with a stirring performance of the National Elite skiers with their National Relay Championships. For a second-time, skiers were able to watch the best in the world show us how it is done, then step up to the starting line on an inspirational high and give it a try. Again, there was nothing stopping us from getting in on the action with the elite, but there were points to earn in the final Club Series Event of the year.
Seeing the National Relay Championship come down to a nail-biter between the Gold Medalists Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins could not have been scripted better. Teams were composed of names we have all become familiar with and tagged off to the Sprint Relay Olympic Champions! Representing their native teams, Kikkan (APU) had a slight advantage over Jessie (Stratton Mountain) in the final exchange. APU had built and 11-second advantage over the first three legs of the relay. Jessie set out with the determination of a true anchor leg and methodically closed in on Kikkan who took it out hard. By the halfway mark they were skiing even. Jessie overtook the lead and opened a 13-second gap by the finish. Crowds cheered as the skiers made their way in with so many teams having stellar performances. Then they turned their attention to the New England Club Relay Championship.
Citizen’s racers scurried about assembling their teams and dialing in the wax. Rapidly changing conditions were affecting testing, but NWVE’s Recommendation was working as expected. Variable conditions, call for creative solutions. Most important was not to repeat last year’s “too much stick” disaster which left some ripping the tracks out and skiing on platform heels. We avoided straight klister but used some Start Oslo on a Violet base, covered with a new favorite, Guru Red. Testers thought it was perfect in testing, but the sun was warming the surface rapidly. Some opted to go with a warmer layer of Oslo, others were satisfied.
Managing registration and bib distribution made me appreciate why head coaches make their assistant coaches work so hard. It sure would have been nice to have someone to boss around as we waxed, assigned numbers, collected fees and did everything that needed to be done. It was all for fun and worth the effort.
Suddenly people disappeared, and the starters had lined up. With things in the waxing area under control, I ran out to Murphy's field to watch the start of the race. The race loop took skiers out of the stadium, around Murphy's onto Duck Pond to Upper Bailey Hazen, and returned to the stadium via Lemon's Haunt. It was a fast course.
NWVE looked good going through Murphy's. Skis were fast, and kick seemed to be delivering when called upon. NWVE assembled seven teams for the event. Setting the pace, Tyler Magnan, Tom Thurston, Scott Magnan, Andre’ Bolduc, Mark White, Stephen Wright and Tim Cowan spread themselves throughout the field. These skiers were holding their own among the field of hot shots. Coming out of Murphy's all skiers looked composed and like things had come together well. After the turn onto Duck Pond what was thought to be shaded turned out to be sunny. Kick was compromised but continued to work with some effort. The race field began to spread out and smaller packs of racers formed. Those that chose to double pole began to pull away as the course flattened out. When skiers returned, NWVE was still looking good. There was renewed excitement as Sarah Pribram, Chris Burnham, Karl Goetze, Spike Clayton, Perry Bland, Jessica Bolduc and Kyle Darling set out with fresh legs. Manny skiers were positioned well with others of similar ability as well as people to pass. The second leg was classic as well, and the wax did what it needed to do. Chris picked up several spots during his ski outpacing most on the second leg. Spike and Perry found company with each other going back and forth throughout the race. Having missed the Spring Fling Kyle was in awe of how amazing the skiing was. Jessica was content with a little slip after last years' experience and found energy after the Fling to pick up a few spots. On the third leg of the relay, technique switched to skate. The fastest teams began lapping some of the field. Andy Klem, Leigh Mallory, Patrick Cafferky, Alan Cote, Kathy Kjelleren, John Thompson and Brook Hodgeman blended into the race. It became difficult to track everyone as everything was changing and getting mixed up. We knew Kathy had a good lead on her competition, but there was uncertainty with the places of the other teams. Skiers plugged along and the lapping effect brought in an interesting dynamic with mismatched speed. On the final leg, things quieted down a bit. The field continued to spread out, but the super-fast teams had begun finishing, taking the people off the course. There was still a lot of action, but mostly with people of similar abilities. As the third leg tagged off excitement grew in anticipation of the finish. Cipperly Good, Peter Gurney, Eric Tremble, Eric Darling, John Witmer, Olivia Ferraro, and James Willsey had the honor of finishing the race. All looked good defending and improving their position. Much anticipated was the battle of the Erics' so see if one could overtake the other. Leighder’s Jersey had too much of an advantage for Eric Darling to make up on Eric Tremble. He did close but could channel enough Diggins to make the pass.
After the racing wrapped up, everyone gathered for some food and socializing. There were a lot of smiles and stories exchanged among all the day's athletes and fans. Shortly after an extended awards ceremony took place for the Relay Championship, Club Series, and Zak Cup. NWVE took home a ton of hardware and retained the NENSA Club Series Championship!