In 2014 NENSA began the tradition of honoring the most outstanding male and female Eastern Cup skiers with the Gallagher Award. As we build excitement for the new season, NENSA is pleased to announce that Ava Thurston (Mansfield Nordic) and Fin Bailey (Stratton Mountain School) are the 2022 Eastern Cup Champions. Their inspired efforts are a perfect way to celebrate Mike Gallagher’s legacy as an athlete, coach, and community leader.
Thurston matriculated to Dartmouth College this fall after one of the most storied Vermont High School careers in both cross country running and skiing — including numerous State titles in each sport. On the Eastern Cup circuit she was the top junior woman in six of the eight races, placing second to two different Canadians in the events she did not win. Thurston went on to Junior Nationals in Minnesota last March and swept all three individual events and anchored the New England U18 Team to victory. If you pull up the most current F.I.S. points list you will find Thurston is ranked 1st for her birth year (2004) in distance and 2nd in sprint — now, that is something that would make Mike Gallagher proud to see!
While Ava anchored the NE JN Team, fellow award recipient, Fin Bailey was the scramble leg in that same race. Bailey, a senior at the Stratton Mountain School, was the top junior in half of the eight Eastern Cups during the 2021-2022 season. At Junior Nationals he topped the U18 Boys field in both the sprint and the 10km mass start classic race. His sprinting talent often found him in heats competing against some of the top male sprinters in the country. At the start of the 2022 ski season Bailey is the 3rd ranked (2005) on the F.I.S. sprint list. He also has a mean backflip on skinny skis!
Both Thurston and Bailey have participated in many NENSA and US Ski Team Projects including roller ski races, camps and international competition. While their results stand out on the world’s stage for their ages, they are both humble, team players, who motivate others around them to work hard. No doubt they’ve already shared their experiences and stoke from the 2022 Equinor International Junior Camp with their teammates and fellow skiers.
Matt Boobar, Stratton Mountain School, Nordic Director adds, “Fin is a pleasure to work with. The kind of athlete that needs to be held because they want to do everything. From soccer games, running and mountain bike races, roller skiing, strength training… Fin is busy guy who works hard and the results show it. We are looking forward to watching Fin this coming season in regional, national and international racing!”
Adam Terko, Mansfield Nordic Ski Club Head Coach, describes Thurston, “Ava has a lot of strengths, both literally and figuratively. But her pure love of skiing (not just racing, but skiing itself) is what strikes me most. She’s motivated to be a better skier, not just a faster skier. Because of that motivation it’s hard to imagine something she won’t be able to do on a pair of skis or for the sport itself.”
We congratulate these skiers and thank them for reminding us of Mike Gallagher’s competitive spirit. Mike was a three-time Olympic cross-country skier and the Head Coach of the US Ski Team from 1980-86, who would, no doubt, love bragging about these two outstanding athletes around the sauna!
(Each year’s winners are determined by the lowest average NENSA JRL points from seven of the eight Eastern Cup events).