The nordic ski team has had an impressive start to the season, posting great showings in its first two carnivals at St. Lawrence and University of New Hampshire (UNH). Between the women’s and men’s sides, five skiers finished within the top 30 at UNH.

“I think that we started out the season pretty strong,” said captain Hannah Miller ’17. “We have a lot of first years this year and we weren’t entirely sure how they would perform this season, but they’ve been doing very well.”

This year, first years make up half of the team, which has grown significantly over the past three years. Head Coach Nathan Alsobrook attributes this growth to an incredible level of proficiency and competitiveness among the team’s new members.

“My policy for recent years is that people who meet a certain level of proficiency or achieve a certain level of competitiveness can be on the team,” Alsobrook said. “We’ll find a way to make it work with the numbers.”

While the first years bring new opportunities for improvement, Alsobrook is aware of the drawbacks of having a larger team.

“The team is larger this year, and on one hand it presents logistical challenges with extra athletes that need to be managed. [Yet] I wanted to give them a chance to find out who will rise to the top,” he said. “It’s a little bit outside my comfort zone in terms of the numbers I had, but I think that it’s been a really positive situation to allow everybody to challenge everybody at practice and create that healthy competitive environment.”

This new environment seems to have paid off, as the team has produced several standout performances this season. Last weekend at the UNH carnival, Miller placed within the top 15 in both classic and skate. At the St. Lawrence carnival two weeks ago, captain Mac Groves ’17 placed 10th individually.

Alsobrook is hopeful about the performances of the first years.

“Definitely the first years are making an impact,” he said. “Top 30 is sort of the gold standard for the team. That’s where you score qualifying points for the NCAA championships, so that’s a good benchmark for our team. Russell [O’Brien ’20], Lily [Johnston ’20] and Orion [Watson ’20] have all broken into the top 30 so far this year, so that’s a really good accomplishment for them as first years.”

Heading to the next few carnivals, the team hopes to focus on the little things that can improve its standing.

“The focus right now is improving the small things that we can do, like staying healthy and getting enough rest,” said Miller. 

But the team also has its eyes on long-term goals. 

“One of our big goals this season is this thing called the Chummy Broomhall Cup,” said Graves. “It’s a championship race for all the Maine schools and one of our main goals is to win that.”

The Polar Bears will vie for the Chummy Broomhall Cup in late February. Next, the team is competing at the two-day UVM carnival in Stowe, VT today and tomorrow.