2011-02-18 / Team Leominster

Nordic combined

High school ski team finds success in first season
STORY BY
CAROLINE KERAS

With all of the snow that has blanketed New England this winter, many people have been heading frequently to the slopes to get some runs in on the fresh powder that keeps falling, which means that the members of the newly formed Leominster/ Lunenburg high schools ski racing team have some additional incentive to lace up their bindings this year.

After dwindling numbers of skiers entered Leominster High School each year, Neil Buckley and John Bateman, parents of Leominster High School students with an interest in skiing, recently asked Lunenburg High School coach Jim Broden if he would be interested in forming a co-op team for the two schools. Broden, who has coached the Lunenburg team since it’s inception around half a decade ago, was immediately intrigued by the idea.

“I liked the idea because our Lunenburg team had openings for 12 more racers and we had a hard time competing with many of the bigger schools such as Nashoba Regional, Lincoln-Sudbury and Concord-Carlisle, who are typically two or three times the size of Lunenburg. We have done well individually but needed more depth to compete in the team competition,” he said.

Fourteen skiers from the two schools officially became a team in November of 2010 after approval from the athletic directors in both districts.

According to a release sent by Neil Buckley, the girls’ team consists of “Casey Buckley, Hannah Buckley, and Rachel Bateman (all freshman at Leominster), along with Nichole Broden, Elizabeth Broden, Elizabeth Lahti, Megan Lahti and Caroline Jones (all of Lunenburg). The boys’ Team is comprised of Sam Bateman (Senior at Leominster) John Lahti, Jimmy Broden, David Broden, Sam Keegan, Jeremy Lessard, Christian Kapsted (all of Lunenburg).”

Despite the short time they have had to gel as a team, the group has already found great success, according to the coaches.

“Each school has contributed to the team effort and we are off to our best season ever,” said Broden. “They’ve more than held their own,” said Neil Buckley.

While it helps that many of the students knew each other before they joined the team because they were members of the Wachusett Mountain Race Team, the team’s hard work and dedication has also been a contributing factor to their success. They constantly participate in free skiing drills to improve technique and set up practice courses for training during a rigorous in-season schedule.

“We practice two afternoons per week at Wachusett Mountain and race once per week at Nashoba Valley. Practice starts in December, the races start in January and last for six weeks; the state championships are March 2,” said Broden.

It is that training that has made the difference while competing in a sport where every bit of effort matters.

“It’s the seconds that count, and I don’t think people realize that,” said Hannah Buckley.

Despite all of their hard work, team members still manage to enjoy themselves.

“Race days go by really quickly and it’s a lot of fun,” said Hannah. Even with all of the success, those involved in the program have faced many challenges this season. Because of the budget cuts in many school districts across the country, including Leominster and Lunenburg, the team had to find creative ways to meet their basic needs to compete. They transport themselves to practices and races, and Avidia Bank and Rollstone Bank & Trust both made donations for team jackets and training equipment.

Not only do we hope to get more funding next year, but more participants as well.

The coaches welcome skiers of any level to try out when it comes time for the next season.

“I would encourage any skier who is a decent skier to try it out, about half of our skiers have never raced before, even a few twin tip skiers, and we promise you will be a better skier when you done, ready to take on any trail even at the big mountains; we even plan to add some terrain park training to make practice more fun and our skiers more versatile,” said Broden.

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