By John Goralski
Casey Abraham set the fastest time on her first run as she led a small list of just five skiers to navigate the Giant Slalom at Cannon Mountain in less than a minute. The Lady Knight skier finished both runs in less than two minutes to capture the overall title (1:58.05) at the Eastern High School Championships in New Hampshire.
Abraham finished first in the girls race of the giant slalom. She was coming off a fourth place finish in the slalom, and her times helped push Team CT over the top in the team competition.
“It was really cool,” said Blue Knight ski racing coach Sean Florian. “I think that’s the first time that Connecticut girls have won the Eastern High School Championships. Usually it’s Massachusetts, Vermont, or New Hampshire.”
From Saturday, March 9 to Sunday, March 10, the best skiers in the region converged on the White Mountains for the final race of the high school season, and Southington was well-represented. Bobby Chambers shrugged off a fall in the slalom race to capture a top 10 finish in the giant slalom. Abraham finished with the best time across all competitors—boys and girls.
Team CT captured first place in the girls race and fifth in the boys race against top racers from across New England and as far away as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin.
Florian said that it showed the continued development of the Blue Knight program. A pair of Knights competed at the event. Two more qualified for the team but missed the competition because of other commitments. It was no surprise that, when all-state rosters were announced, Southington had six skiers considered in the list of 10 boys and 10 girls.
“It’s quite an accomplishment even if they don’t always get recognized in the school because they’re not a varsity program,” said Florian. “They take the top three results from all the kids, and they try to see who was in the top 10 in the state for their regular season results. They use some of the shootout results for tie breakers. All of our guys skied great, and they all deserved it.”
Abraham and Erika Florian were named to the girls all-state roster. Bobby Chambers and Brian Chambers were named to the boys team, and Anna Schneider received honorable mention. Florian said that Sebastian Doughty also received consideration as one of the state’s best skiers, but he finished just outside the final cut.
“Believe me, I looked at it closely,” said the coach. “I thought he was close, and he was. He was only a little bit behind the people that made it.”
That’s why Florian lists this winter’s teams as one of the best in program history. With six skiers among the list of the state’s best and four on the Team CT roster, this winter has been one of the most successful for the up-and-coming program. Just a few years ago, Southington was struggling to post the six necessary scores as a co-ed team. Now, they are battling in the middle of the pack in both the boys and girls competition.
Had they continued to compete as a co-ed team, Southington might have even been the team to beat in 2013, but Florian said that winning wasn’t the ultimate goal.
“Everybody put in a lot of effort, so I’m proud of the whole group, not just the ones that won,” said the coach. “As a co-ed team, we probably would have won it all since we had some of the fastest girls, and they were actually competing with some of the fastest guys. But I wanted to have a full varsity girls team and a full varsity boys team. It allows everyone to race varsity, and I’m sure that the kids enjoy that a lot better.”
Competing with some of the top teams continues to be a challenge, but Florian said he wasn’t too concerned. His aim is to make every skier reach their potential, and that was the best measure for this winter’s success.
“I’m proud of them all. We had hoped to get back to the state championship, but the format counts six racers and that makes it tough for a school that doesn’t have a lot of experienced racers,” he said. “Schools like Darien and Fairfield have all these skiers that ski up north. It’s hard to compete with them, but I’m proud of our kids. They all skied great. We have one kid, Tanner Walsh, and he was our last or second to the last racer every time, but he was there every week and you could see him going faster and faster. I hope that they all learned how to score more and better. I think that they all had a lot of fun.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.