MANCHESTER -- Shortly after the beginning of the new year, both the girls and boys Burr and Burton Academy Alpine ski teams will begin on their own individual quests.
For the boys, it is the pursuit of their fourth consecutive state title and for the girls it is to harness all of their raw ability and live up to the potential they have shown by claiming a state championship.
In an interview on Monday, new BBA Alpine coach Trey Parker -- who took over for long time coach Pete McNealus -- said he believes both teams have the potential to do something special this year.
"There's no reason why that women's team cannot podium at states," said Parker. "If you look at the talent there is this year it's [impressive]. They just have to put it together when it counts."
One of the keys for the women's team, Parker said, will be for them to realize how good they truly are and "take ownership" of that. If the team is able to realize that, feed off each other's energy and execute, Parker said he believes that they will go far this season.
In addition, Parker said he believes that they need to increase their intensity.
"Last year the women's team started winning races, which they hadn't done historically. So, that was significant and that gave them [confidence], but that didn't get piggybacked with the focus on the training and the intensity that you wanted to see," Parker. "The women's team didn't have that intensity, which allows them to bring it up a couple of notches.
If they can devleop that level of intensity, which brings the energy level up in their skiing just a little bit more, they're capable of some pretty good stuff all the way through the end of the season."
Katie Bourque, who consistently placed in the top three last year, is returning for her senior season. Senior Devon Thiele, who was also one of the team's top performers last year, will be returning to help the team make a run at the state title along with Casey Apps -- another one of last year's standouts.
Sanderson Kemp -- who consistently performed well for the Bulldogs and often acted as one of their top four scorers -- returns this year as well.
In addition to Bourque, Thiele, Apps and Kemp, Carly Gayda, Ella Guerts, Emily Cowles, Erin Cairns, Haley McGrath, Kate Lochner, Lexie Alexopoulos, Madeline Zeif, Maggie Cowles, Megan Knight, Nicole Schmid, Olivia Maeder, Sarah Lochner, and Sarah Alpert round out the rest of the roster.
The boys team is anchored by seniors Ben Alexopoulos, Tanner McGrath and Andrew Sherras.
"Ben and Andrew, they were kind of the neck and neck boys," said Parker of their performance last year. "Tanner didn't have the consistency last year that he's capable of as far as putting two solid ones down the hill. I think ironically his injury (knee) has brought him a level of fitness through his aggressive rehab that he didn't have last year. Right now he's skiing really well in training. So, then you add that third component to that gang and all of sudden you have three really strong athletes."
Tim Swinarton is another one of the skiers -- who was solid for the team last year -- that Parker expects to perform well again this season.
"Swinny could on occasion find trouble part way down the hill. He had a couple of instances where he hiked in order to finish the run," said Parker. "But again, he's skiing two clicks higher than he was last year as far as what he's brought to the hill so far that we've seen."
Dylan Bibeau, Owen Henderson, Tom Morgantini, Richard Sherras, Scott Trudel, and Skylar Clark make up the rest of the boys roster.
Coming into this season, Parker said that there has been an increased level of fitness for the majority of the skiers - something he said he is pleased about.
"I would say we're pretty happy with the levels of fitness and the independent work that a lot of these guys have done to go after that," said Parker. "There's [been] a whole lot more of them going after it physically in their preparation. So, there's a pretty good fitness level for a majority of these athletes."
Parker said that several of the members of the team are two or three sport athletes, which helps keep their conditioning up. However, for those that were not playing another sport, Parker said that encouraged the members of the team to do things that would help their conditioning once the season arrived such as participating in informal dry land training.
One difference this year is that the State Championships for both the men's and women's teams will be held at the same venue -- something Parker said he believes can be advantageous.
"They're each going to have someone cheering for them, which is something they have all the way through districts and then all of sudden to have that support disappear at states, I mean maybe that can take you a little off your game," said Parker. "Having people cheer for you is a big deal and if it's your teammates it's even better."
Parker said he believes that having states held at the same venue this year is "a great carrot" for the team. When states come around though he said that picking the teams is going to be difficult given the talent he has on the roster. In order to make the choice, Parker said that he and the coaching staff will be keeping track of how well the skiers are doing in the different disciplines - slopestyle, slalom and giant slalom -- throughout the course of the season.
The Alpine ski teams will open their season at Bromley on Jan. 3 beginning at 1 p.m. DANCE
Coach: Erika Bearor
The team: When the BBA dance team hosts its first competition of the season, they will have youth and experience on their side. There are only two seniors -- Hannah Hart and Bree Lalor. The rest of the team includes juniors Lauren MacKenzie, Alexa Beach, Eden Hubert, and Emily Lear and sophomores Tori Parker, Hannah Phillips, Jessica Casey, Emily Sheehan, and Julia Hansen.
"This season I have girls who are far more motivated and committed to the team I think. Not that they weren't last year, but I just see a very positive team in front of me, which is half the battle," Bearor said. "I have great talent on this team and incredible potential within their dancing abilities. So, if I can just hone in on the things that they need to strengthen I think that we can have a fantastic season. I'm really looking forward to it."
Opener: January 11 at home
-- Brandon Canevari