Assistant Sports Editor
WOODFORD -- The first right-hand bend of an S-turn about a kilometer from the finish line, on it's own, is not daunting. Situated at the base of a long, steady descent, however, the speed carried into the maneuver can be.
Some skiers in Tuesday's Nordic state championships discovered that the hard way, falling before they could make their move back to the left. A few made it out teetering on one ski in a struggle with their own centers of gravity. One unlucky racer escaped that first bend but, freighted with momentum, missed the next, tumbling off the trail's edge and into a small stream.
"I actually had a nightmare that I did that same thing," said Mount Anthony Union High School senior Becca Romac, who smoothly navigated the section twice. "I'm glad it wasn't me."
On their home track, the rest of the Patriots also avoided such miscues on the demanding Classic course at Prospect Mountain as well. The hosts conceded no ground as the boys team claimed second and the girls third behind twin-champion Champlain Valley Union.
The Redhawks, with commanding leads after the Freestyle half of the event last Thursday in Craftsbury, blazed through Tuesday's action secure to Division I boys and girls titles, sweeping the individual races in the morning and the afternoon relays.
The CVU boys finished with 52 points, to edge Mount Anthony (123) and Mount Mansfield (188). The girls cruised to a 60-point total, beating out Cougars (122) and the Patriots (168).
"They're very, very, very strong," said MAU coach Bruce Smith. "Hey, they work hard, they're good kids, they deserve it."
The Mount Anthony boys earned runner-up honors for the third straight winter. They have been either first or second every year since 2004.
"I don't think we could've done anything about CVU, but we skied our hardest," said MAU senior Ben Faller. "We wanted to beat them in the relay but it just didn't happen."
Rutland's Isaac Wright claimed top D-I honors in the boys 5-kilometer race, but CVU followed with the next five finishers before Mount Anthony senior Jeremiah Colbath could cross the line in seventh.
Luke Keenan took eighth for MAU, while Ben Faller was 13th and Caleb Cohen 14th.
Taylor Spillane powered the CVU girls with a win in the girls 5K. Senior Erin Anderson led the Patriots with an eighth-place showing.
"She's more confident with her Classic and that showed today," Smith said.
Romac followed in 17th and Abby Malmborg was 19th. Sophomore Molly O'Callaghan completed the score in 27th.
"I just pulled [O'Callaghan] up to varsity near the end of the season and I said, ‘You deserve to ski in states because you're working hard and skiing well,'" Smith said. "And all of a sudden it's, ‘Wow, she scored.'"
In the 4x2.5K relay, the MAU boys were neck-and-neck with Mount Mansfield entering the third leg, which Faller turned into a 20-second cushion.
"I just went. I don't know what to tell you," Faller said. "I just took off after Caleb tagged me and [the MMU] skier was with me at the [first] crest right there, but he sort of slowly moved back.
"Or I slowly moved forward."
Shaking off a frustrating individual race, Romac turned in a team-best split for the Patriot girls relay, the second fastest of any skier outside the top two teams.
"I wasn't very happy with it at all starting the relay. But once I got skiing I got in the zone and you just channel out everything else," Romac said. "It's like, so what if I had a bad race, it's a fresh start.
"I took hold of that and skied for my team."
At the conclusion of Tuesday's action, Romac and Cohen also earned spots on the Vermont team headed to the Eastern Championships next month.
"I didn't really have a great individual race, I wasn't very happy with it, but it really topped of a good year," Romac said of the accolade. "I'm pretty ecstatic, actually. It feels good."