Nordic skiers blazing the trail for fledgling program
“We can’t seem to spark that interest in middle school. Our pipeline is pretty empty, but the athletes we do have are good strong skiers and good competitive skiers,” said Kurt Jepson, coach of the high school and middle school Nordic ski teams. The alpine/ Nordic ski program started as a middle school offering in 2008 and was sanctioned as an official varsity sport at the high school in 2011.
The high school Nordic squad, which includes five skiers, is smaller than last year. Other school programs, such as Yarmouth or Falmouth don’t lack participation, Jepson said, in part because they mandate skiers do both alpine and Nordic while in middle school. Scarborough does not have such a requirement.
“If you don’t introduce it to kids in grade school, it hurts you,” Jepson said.
While some coaches eye a state title, Jepson said his goal is for each of his skiers to continue to improve each meet. The Nordic skiers began honing their skill with roller skiing in early December. When the snow began to fly, workouts moved outside to the athletic field/woods behind Scarborough Middle School or Pineland Farms, where the team does hill work.
The season, which kicked off Jan. 7 with a 5K race at Pineland Farms in Gray, includes four Western Maine Conference meets, as well as two out of conference meets, including the Oxford Hills Sprint Jan. 24 and Sassi Memorial at Black Mountain in Rumford Jan. 31.
Jepson said it takes a certain type of athlete to be a successful Nordic skier.
“It takes a huge amount of energy and endurance, but unlike track, you need a really strong upper back and core because so much of your power comes from your waistline up, not your legs,” Jepson said.
Nordic skiing, which Jepson calls a “total fitness sport,” also takes a fair bit of technique, something for which junior Juliet Karam has a knack.
“Juliet is not our strongest skier, but she is so coachable. She has been with me since she was in the sixth grade,” Jepson said Jan. 13, the day before a meet at Pineland Farms in Gray.
“She has flawless technique,” he added. “She comes out and works hard everyday. She is very committed and is a good example of what it takes to be a real good Nordic skier.”
Karam, whose favorite places to Nordic ski are at Pineland Farms and Sugarloaf, first got introduced to Nordic skiing through WinterKids when she was in fourth grade. WinterKids is a Portland-based organization that introduces and promotes outdoor activities to children.
When she was in sixth grade, Karam decided to follow in the footsteps of her older brother, Alex, who graduated from Scarborough High School in 2014, and join Scarborough Middle School’s Nordic ski team.
“It’s different from any other sport. It’s so much fun. I like being outside in the snow,” said Karam, who also runs cross-country and plays lacrosse for Scarborough.
“Our team is small, but it is fun to be able to represent so many people while still being a small team,” she added.