[ccfic caption-text format="plaintext"]
By Josh Perry
Hometown Weekly Staff
December was unseasonably warm and while most people were enjoying the postponement of winter weather and the lack of snow on the ground, the Needham High ski team had to sit and wait for winter to hit and its season to begin in earnest.
The Rockets usually have a league clinic before the opening race at Blue Hills, but it had to be canceled this year. Needham had spent some time doing dry land training, working on skill drills, conditioning, and race rules and strategy but nothing beats actually get on skis and heading down the hill.
So, on the final day of winter vacation, Needham took a team trip to Waterville Valley, N.H. and spent a day on the slopes. The Rockets had free runs in the morning, worked on skills, and even set up a mini-course to practice race conditions.
The practice has paid off with both teams having solid starts to the new season, which kicked off for real on Jan. 9 at Ragged Mountain. The boys are consistently finishing fourth in the league, despite a roster that features five freshmen, two sophomores, and only three seniors, and the girls are also in fourth but last race were only one point from third.
“This is a very exciting season,” said Needham coach Samantha Martyn. “It’s definitely a development year. We’re getting some experience, some knowledge and some skills under our belts.”
“Over the next two or three years, I’m really looking forward to the boys’ program’s growth,’ she continued. “The girls are in a very competitive spot. We’re right there, which is very exciting.”
The boys have placed several skiers regularly are the top 15. Among them is returning skiers Max Lobel and Josh Arvin, who have both reached states in past seasons. Freshman Rok Gundaker has stepped right in and been a top competitor, while classmate Joey Fleming is another who has shown great potential.
For the girls, junior Sofia Kurd has returned and has her sights set on a third straight trip to the state championship races at Wachusett Mountain at the end of February. Jordyn Tobasky has been regularly in the top 15, as has senior Libby Fleming, who also reached states last season.
Fleming and Lobel came into the program with no racing experience and Martyn is excited to see the growth of the skiers over the course of their careers.
“I’d like to see individuals start to move up,” she explained. “It’s exciting when skiers start on JV and grow up through varsity and over the years improve.”
Martyn is hoping to send teams of three to both the boys’ and girls’ state championship races this year. She sees the potential for having a solid season and credits the day in New Hampshire for helping to give the Rockets a boost at the start.
“That was the day that kind of pushed us ahead of other teams because they weren’t out doing that at the time,” Martyn said. “There were other teams that hadn’t practiced at all before the first meet.”
The Rockets will be back on the slopes this week with a varsity race at Blue Hills on Wednesday, a JV race there on Thursday, and a trip to Ragged Mountain on Saturday.
Josh Perry is an Editor at Hometown Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.