Luke Rizio with his junior national medals.

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WOODFORD — The Mount Anthony Nordic community rallied behind Luke Rizio Sunday at Prospect Mountain, surprising the Patriots standout after his stellar performance at junior nationals in Alaska.

Rizio received All-American honors after placing inside the top-10 in all three of his events against the fastest skiers in the country. After a Sunday morning ski, he entered his home mountain lodge to more than 50 people — teammates, coaches, family, Prospect board members and MAU fans alike — who erupted in cheer, and a couple cowbells, to congratulate him on his achievements.

“It means the world to me,” Rizio said of the support. “You see these people every day and they’re always cheering you on, but it’s even better when they’re all together. It makes it all worth it, it’s even better than the medals.”

MAU coach Rob Short addressed the crowd, commending the MAU juniors work ethic.

“It doesn’t just happen with the races,” Short said. “It’s the effort and the dedication that’s put in from the full year. It’s the 500-plus hours of training, staying focused and determined to get to his goals that he created almost a year ago.”

Rizio attended the junior nationals in 2022, barely missing out on becoming an All-American. He was determined to achieve that status this winter.

“I had very specific goals,” he said. “I was really driven to get there.”

He did so during his first race on March 13 with his ninth place finish in the 7.5 kilometer classic. Getting the All-American honor out of the way early allowed Rizio to ski more freely throughout the rest of the week.

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“That first race, getting there was so satisfying,” Rizio said. “From there on, it was just a bonus.”

He followed that performance with another ninth place finish the following day, and closed out junior nationals by grabbing fourth in a 10 kilometer skate race on Thursday in a mass-start event. Rizio said he’s a “big fan” of mass-starts, and the numbers support that claim. He was lined up next to fellow New England skiers Tabor Greenberg of Green Mountain Valley School, Finegan Bailey of Stratton Mountain School and Aidan Jocobus of Green Mountain Valley School, which made the event extra special for the Patriots’ racer.

“Getting to be on the frontline that mass start with three of my teammates from New England — some of my best friends — there’s a lot of nerves behind that, but I think it helps me when I can hang with that pack, get on that leader and just stick with him,” Rizio said.

The MAU star has dominated the high school scene in Vermont, winning back-to-back individual state titles. He has his sights set on number three, next.

“Got to win that third state championship,” he said.

As for the national stage, he’s hoping to take the next step.

“Maybe I can get on that podium next year,” Rizio said. “(I was) two seconds off.”

Michael Mawson can be reached on Twitter @Mawson_Sports or via email at mmawson@benningtonbanner.com.

Sports Reporter

Michael Mawson is the sports editor for Vermont News & Media. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Hampshire in 2019. Michael was the sports editor of UNH’s student newspaper where he covered NCAA Division I athletics.


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