MANCHESTER -- With the state championships a little less than a month away, the Burr and Burton Academy alpine ski team -- both the boys and girls -- are looking to take home the hardware.
This year, the boys will be looking to three-peat as state champions and while that is the immediate target, the ultimate goal is even greater.
"We have a really skilled team and since freshman year we’ve had racers that are really well trained and Š basically our goal is to win four years in a row and this third year is our goal right now," said junior Ben Alexopoulos.
As for teammate Tanner McGrath, new to the team this year, he said he is excited about the prospect of winning his first state championship for BBA.
"I never had a ski team [at] my old school. So, I think being able to be part of an actual team in an individual sport and to be able to win a state championship with that team would be just a great way to start it off," he said.
A big part of the boys success so far has been their dedication to conditioning for the season, including dry-land camps throughout the fall.
"A lot of our top athletes don’t stop conditioning right after the season stops," said Andrew Sherras. "A lot of us Š you’re working out in the gym at least three days a week. So, I mean that helps a lot. A lot of teams can do their preseason workout and then as soon as the snow comes there’s just no more working out so you sort of start to slack and you lose that cardio edge."
As for the girls, Devon Thiele said she feels as though BBA has a legitimate shot at winning a state championship this year.
"I feel like our chances the last few years have not really been up there, but this year I feel like we’re definitely in the group, which is exciting," she said.
Although the team is setting their sites on the state championship, Katie Bourque said the team still has a race-by-race mentality.
"You want to focus on the bigger picture, but it can kind of become a little bit too much if you think about that whole thing. You kind of have to take it one race at a time," said Bourque. "It makes the whole thought of doing well at states a little bit easier."
The girls team has improved dramatically this year for two reasons, according to coach Pete McNealus.
Not only have the girls from last year improved, but the addition of Katie Bourque -- who has been one of their best skiers this season -- has really helped the team.
"Katie Bourque is a great addition because she pushes everyone else’s skiing ability and her pushing everyone else raises the level for everyone," said McNealus. "Everyone is starting to ski together or ski comparable times.
"In the last three races there’s been a couple of different lead changes within the teams and that all contributes to competition that raises your level."
Thiele said one of the biggest differences this year is that unlike some other teams that have one or two consistently good racers, they have four or five girls who perform well on a regular basis -- and are friends away from the slopes as well.
"It’s good because it’s like friendly competition and you want to be the one who’s doing really well, but if it’s not you you want it to be your friends. So, it’s good that you have four or five girls that are doing well," said Bourque. "I think it’s a good atmosphere to be in to have a little competition."