by John Goralski
Brian Chambers cut through the gates on Mt. Southington like a runaway train. Bobby Chambers finished his runs just a single breath behind him. On the girls course, Casey Abraham was elbowing past Erika Florian in another highly-contested battle atop the race standings.
On Monday, Feb. 4, the best skiers in the state converged on Mt. Southington for the first of two competitions to qualify for Team CT, but it seemed like just another race for the locals. In a field that consisted of all-state level athletes, Southington was competing with seven of their varsity racers.
Three finished in the top five. Six finished in the top 10, and all but one advanced to the final showdown. The Blue Knights have come a long way since they battled the powerhouse teams for a single entry to the Team CT Shootout. This year, they sent enough to field a state-level co-ed team…with one skier to spare.
“We have some good skiers, and they all skied pretty well so we’re pretty happy,” said Blue Knight ski racing coach Sean Florian. “Each team nominates kids that they think can make it to the top 30 of the GS Shootout, and then those that actually make the top 30 go on to race for the top 12 spots. That’s the state team that goes to the high school championship.”
Southington qualified four entries into the boys competition, and three of them advanced to the next level of competition. They were scheduled to compete in the Slalom Shootout on Monday, Feb. 11, but the winter storm pushed the competition to Feb. 24. Brian Chambers (46.47) missed the overall title by just three tenths of a second. Bobby Chambers (47.01) placed sixth, and Sebastian Doughty (47.07) claimed the eighth spot overall to advance to the final competition.
“Bobby and Brian are obviously skiing well, but Sebastian has really come around this year,” said Florian. “He grew a lot, and that makes a difference. The bigger you are, the faster you can go.”
All three are in a good position to finish in the top 12 after two races to earn a spot on the Team CT roster. Casey Abraham (47.13) is also in the running with a second place finish in the girls race, and Erika Florian (47.18) scored a sixth place finish to give herself a great opportunity to qualify. Anna Schneider (50.73) has work to do at the next race to climb into the top 12 positions, but her 30th place finish was good enough to earn her a chance.
“It’s reasonable that all of them can make it, but we won’t know what that means until more racing goes on,” said Florian. “We’ll see which kids are qualifying through other events in the USSA. The championship is on the same weekend this year as those other races. Every single championship race for all levels is on the same weekend, so it kind of stinks. There are going to be a lot of kids on Team CT that won’t go.”
Mike Schneider (52.17) was the only Knight that didn’t advance to the next round, but his time was good enough for a top 50 finish. This was the most participants that Southington was ever able to produce. Just over 100 of the best skiers in the state qualified, and the Knights fielded seven.
That’s why Florian is so pleased with his team despite the lack of top 5 finishes in regular season races. On Wednesday, Feb. 6 both teams finished seventh in a field of 10-12 teams. The top 10 places were littered by Blue Knights, but it wasn’t enough to carry them to the top of the standings. Florian isn’t concerned.
“We have some that have quite literally just begun skiing, so it’s not really about winning,” said the coach. “It’s about getting these kids to learn how to ski and getting them skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. We’re not out there trying to make sure we win. Sure, it would be nice, but you need a lot of depth for that.”
Abraham (46.33) led the girls with a second place finish. Erika Florian (47.18) finished fourth, and Anna Schneider (48.24) placed ninth overall. Carolyn Zesut (64.64), Marissa Tedeschi (66.76) and Ashley Navis (80.78) scored. Megan Enright (83.04) and Melanie Tedeschi (103.92) contributed.
Brian Chambers (43.6) edged Bobby (44.03) for second place in the boys race. Doughty (45.29), Zach P)almer (55.94), Austin Gentile (59.51), Ian Jacobs (60.54), and Kolton McLinnis (63.06) scored. Austin Coley (64.45) and Tanner Walsh (72.71) contributed.
Two teams were unable to score the six skier minimum in order to place at the event, but the Southington teams each had two scores to spare.
“We’ve come a long way. We’re finishing races, and we’ve become competitive,” said Florian. “They’re all getting better each week, and as long as they’re having fun that’s all that matters.”
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