Eastern High School Championships were held this weekend at The Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, Vermont. The NENSA Eastern High School Championships are the premier event for high school and prep school racers in New England and New York, with each state bringing up to 24 boys and 24 girls to fill a team with the top 20 skiers scoring points. The goal of the EHSC is to provide the highest quality competition for high school-aged athletes, and that is exactly what happened this weekend with the perfect grooming, challenging but fun race courses, and high caliber race organizers at Mountain Top.
The first race of the weekend was the 5k individual skate held on Friday. The beautiful afternoon sun shone brightly as racers skied the 2.5 km loop twice. The top 3 girls all from Vermont were Alexandra Lawson in 3rd with a time of 14:45, Kirsten Miller in 2nd in 14:39 and Rena Schwartz won overall in 14:35. The boys started at 4 p.m. and Walker Bean from Vermont took 3rd place in 12:31, New Yorker Scott Schultz was 2nd in 12:27 and Vermonter Elliot Ketchel won with a time of 12:24.
Saturday morning was the 7.5 k classic mass start. The girls went off at 10 a.m. and followed the course which first snaked around the field, and then into the woods doing two laps of the 3.75k course. This fun and hilly course spread out the field on the first lap, and at the finish it was Vermonter Rena Schwartz again for the win in 22:31. Her fellow teammate Alexandra Lawson came in 2nd with a time of 22:46, and Mary Kretchmer from New Hampshire took 3rd place in 23:03.
The boys race at 11 a.m. went out with the excitement that always surrounds a mass start. From the gun, Massachusetts skier James Kitch took the lead and kept it on the first lap through the field, finishing 1st in 19:12, 9 seconds in front of 2nd place skier from Vermont Elliot Ketchel who finished with a time of 19:19. Greg Burt also from Vermont took 3rd place with a time of 19:25.
After a midday break, the sprints started on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. This event starts in waves of 5, one skier from each state. There was a double pole start at the bottom of the field, and then the 1.2k course went through the stadium, up into the woods, and then back down into the finish. This sprint was fast and fun to watch, with many skiers coming in neck and neck. Kirsten Miller from Vermont took 3rd in 2:52, Mary Kretchmer from New Hampshire was 2nd in 2:51, and winning the sprint was Alexandra Lawson from Vermont with a time of 2:48.
The boys started their sprints at 3:00 p.m. with warm temperatures, but the course remained solid despite the bright sun. Calvin Bates from New Hampshire came in 3rd place with a time of 2:21, Vermonter Greg Burt was 2nd with a time of 2:20, and Scott Schultz from New York won with a time of 2:18.
The Mountain Top Inn & Resort hosted the banquet and awards that evening in their large event hall. There was a full spread of baked ziti, meat lasagna, and chicken parmesan, salads, cookies and brownies. Awards began around 7:15, and the top 10 girls and boys were awarded for the skate, classic and the sprint races. Then the top 3 individuals from all three race scores were awarded, Mary Kretchmer from New Hampshire was in 3rd and then Vermont teammates Rena Schwartz and Alexandra Lawson tying for first! For the boys, James Kitch from Massachusetts was 3rd, Scott Schultz from New York was 2nd, and Elliot Ketchel from Vermont was 1st overall.
The new award for the overall state with the most points was introduced, the Graham Taylor Cup. Graham is one of the founders of the meet and has been the Massachusetts Team Leader for 34 years. It was very fitting that the award be named in his honor. CSU head coach Rob Bradlee spoke about Graham and his life as a coach and skier, and all the things he did for the love of skiing. The state scores were read after the 3 events, and everyone went to bed, excited for the team relays.
It was another beautiful day on Sunday for the team relays, starting with the girls 2 k classic leg, and tagging off to the boy’s classic leg, then onto the girls skate leg. It was a battle from the start between the Massachusetts and Vermont top teams. The last tag off to the top MA and VT teams happened almost at the same time. James Kitch on the MA team took the win for his team just 3 seconds over the Vermont team. During the awards ceremony, the top 5 relay teams were announced, with 5th-2nd places going to relay teams from Vermont! Team scores were announced and NY came in 5th place, Maine in 4th, MA in 3rd, NH was 2nd and VT won overall, earning them the Graham Taylor Cup this year!
Congratulations to all skiers on a great event with high caliber racing, and where friendships are always made across state lines. Thank you to Mountain Top for a superb Championship weekend!