Assistant Sports Editor
WOODFORD -- After a nomadic two years -- 721 days, to be precise -- full of nothing but out-of-town races, the Mount Anthony Union High School Nordic ski teams were thrilled to be back on their own turf at Prospect Mountain.
"They were hyper last night waxing. They were hyper," coach Bruce Smith said. "And they used that energy in a positive manner."
Hosting their first event since February 2011, the Patriots showed just how happy up they were to be home with an aggressive performance to sweep the Marble Valley League classic championships on Wednesday.
The Mount Anthony boys logged seven of the top 12 places to win with 21 points, while the girls had four racers in the top 10 to net 17 points, edging rival Woodstock by 10.
"Last year it was horrible not being able to ski here at all," said MAU senior Erin Anderson. "Everyone was so excited. I think this is the most focused the girls team has ever been all season.
"This is our home course and we know how to ski it."
Third overall, Anderson led a trio of MAU girls that finished 3-4-5, just 18 seconds apart, after Brattleboro's Halie Lange and Rutland's Chloe Levins took first and second, respectively.
Becca Romac was fourth for MAU and Abby Malmborg fifth.
The Wasps followed 6-7-8.
"We've never out-placed the Woodstock girls like that. It's always been close -- they've usually beat us on a tie[breaker]," Smith said.
Freshman Erica Hale stormed to ninth to round out the scoring for the Patriots, two spots better than another trio of Woodstock skiers.
"She made the difference today," Smith said of Hale. "She'd never skied before this year. I moved her up a couple races ago to the varsity and she's just continued to progress."
Wednesday's showing gives the Patriots a slim eight-point cushion on the Wasps, 36-44, heading into the final stage of the three-leg MVL championship series -- the relays -- on Monday in Woodstock.
As the favorites for the top two spots in the team competition, either the Wasps or the Patriots will lock up the league title with a win in the final showdown of a season-long duel.
"It doesn't mean anything," Smith said. "Either Woodstock or [us], they deserve it. I want it, my girls want it, but it's not like if we don't get it they stole it from us."
The Mount Anthony boys head into the relays with a commanding 29-point lead on Woodstock after carrying Wednesday's action. Six Patriots landed in the top 10 after overall winner Isaac Wright, of Rutland, and the Wasps' Zane Fields.
Ben Faller, improving from his ninth-place showing at the freestyle championships last week, set the pace in third.
Luke Keenan claimed fourth and Luke Johnas, still recovering from a bout of pneumonia, was sixth in his return to action.
"It shows you how strong [Johnas] is that he could do that well," Smith said.
Jeremiah Colbath (eighth), Will Buckley (ninth) and Caleb Cohen (10th) completed the top of the chart.
Even with another win under their belts, the Patriots, dominant in the south all season, have an eye on the state championships later this month.
"We're just trying to prepare ourselves," Faller said. "All year, our goal has been to beat [Champlain Valley]. It's what we think about every race."
For Burr and Burton Academy, Thomas Kittross was 14th in the boys race and Helena Bigelow matched the feat in the girls race.
As a team, Rutland was third in the girls race with 46 points. Brattleboro (57 points) slid in behind Woodstock for third in the boys, followed by Rutland (72), BBA (95) and Otter Valley (128).