Eastman wins third straight Sassi Memorial Nordic title

SILAS EASTMAN, a senior at Fryeburg Academy, won his third straight Sassi Memorial Nordic ski title in Rumford. (Rivet Photo)

RUMFORD — When John Weston is asked what measuring stick can be used to determine the best high school Nordic skier, his response is the Sassi.

Over the weekend, the Fryeburg Academy boys’ and girls’ teams competed in the annual Jon Sassi Memorial Nordic ski race at Black Mountain in Rumford.

This annual event has become the largest high school Nordic ski race in Maine attracting skiers and teams from the entire state including many from the states famously remote Aroostook County.

This year’s field included 452 racers representing 48 schools from all three high school ski classes and private schools.

The story of the race for the Raiders, and really for the race in general, was senior Silas Eastman, who three-peated as the winner.

“As I told the team after the race, if you win this race you can consider yourself the best in Maine. To do it three years in a row is quite a legacy. To my knowledge, this has never been done before by a girl or boy (there have been several repeat winners) in the 24-year history of the race,” Coach Weston said. “In my opinion, there is a less obvious reason for the challenge of winning three straight years – the pressure of being expected to win.  When Silas won as a sophomore, no one was watching him. As a junior, he was part of a group of possibles, but this year, he was the one everyone was aiming at. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many miles you run or how good your wax is, you have to win the race in your mind first.  I didn’t talk about it with him leading up to race, we just focused on a usual training schedule.”

Eastman turned in a strong race, beating the second place finisher by 27 seconds.

“It was a well-deserved accomplishment,” Coach Weston said.

The weather was cold and windy, which is typical for Black Mountain.  Race temps for the day ranged from 9 to 14 degrees, which made things cold for spectators but easier for the coaches that had to wax skis for the 5k classic race.

“We ended up waxing skis on our bus – it was just too cold outside,” the coach said. “It was tight, but worth the inconvenience.”

The boys were the first to race and had good luck with no wind at the time.  The afternoon was different. When the girls started, the wind was swirling and stiff.

“It seemed like it was in their face no matter which direction they were heading,” Coach Weston said. “Black Mountain is a hardwood forest with very wide trails so there is no place to escape the wind.”

Fryeburg Academy’s results were strong with the veterans improving their results from the previous year and new skiers skiing strong in what can be an intimidating experience.

Scoring for the boys in 35th was Logan Gerchman, 76th Sully Briggs and 86th Liam Leconey.

“Logan’s a strong classic skier and this course fits his endurance style.  Sully had a big race moving up almost 40 positions from last year and Liam has been coming on strong the past few races,” Coach Weston reported.

Additionally Austin Gerchman has been racing well and finished in 99th.  The boys took 10th out of 29 full teams.

The girls were led by senior Kelsey Liljedahl in 76th, with the scoring completed by Amber Dindorf 86th, Hannah Plowden 104 and first-year skier Catie Gillette in 146.

“Kelsey is a second year skimeister and has been working hard.  She focused on alpine her first two years in high school and has been pushing her Nordic training this year and it is really showing,” Coach Weston said. “Amber improved over last year’s results despite a stiff back and a very strong wind at race time. Hannah was fighting not just the wind, but back spasms also and did well to overcome them.  Catie was a first time scorer for the team and is beginning to put together races in her first year on the team along with teammate Juliet Fink, who was just 5 seconds behind her.”

The FA girls were 18th out of 30 full teams.


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