It won’t be easy for the Hoosac Valley nordic ski teams this year. But they’re already ahead of where they were last season.
There are just four on the girls’ team -- the exact number needed to score as a team -- and the boys’ team isn’t much better with six.
One aspect the teams have in their favor is leadership. Senior Danielle Beauchemin captains the girls, while seniors Justin Barnes and Dan Butler team up to lead the boys.
There is just one other upperclassman on the two teams combined, so coach Alicia Gwozdz is looking for something specific from her captains.
"Keeping a positive attitude, which they are so good at that," she said. "I couldn’t ask for three better students to be leading the team this year."
So far training has been quite different from past years for the Hurricanes. The first month has often been used to get the athletes in shape. There’s no need for that this time. Gwozdz said most of her athletes were in run-heavy sports during the fall, so the endurance is already there. That’s allowed her to focus her coaching time on sport-specific exercises, which she said is "absolutely" better.
"What I’ve been focusing primarily on is a lot of balance work, different technique drills that we can do on dry land. Minimal endurance work," she said. "A lot of them are tired. a lot of them had really long running seasons, so it’s important that they do have time to rest coming off a lot of running. A lot of them did it right through the summer, so they’re pretty tired."
It doesn’t seem like there’s much use in pushing the endurance at this stage, as we are again without any snow in the middle of December. She said the athletes just need to maintain their conditioning.
Beauchemin will be looking after three others. Sophomores Holly Cadran and Sam Staffin and seventh-grader Allison Racela make up the girls’ team. It doesn’t leave any room for any bad news.
"It makes me a little nervous," Gwozdz said. "I only have four girls right now. If somebody gets hurt, if somebody gets sick, then we can’t score as a team. But I’m hoping we’ll pick up a couple more and be good to go."
On the boys’ side, the only upperclassman not a captain is junior Ben Trimarchi. He started skiing last season, the worst time in Gwozdz’s eyes because of the lack of snow for much of the season. His return this year has excited.
"He stuck it out and came back, which is awesome," the coach said. "So I’m hoping, especially for him, a much better season this year."
Freshman Jared Haley and eighth-graders Mitch Barnes and Derek Ziter round out the rest of the boys’ team.
The coach’s thoughts about the team are simple.
"They’re young," she said.
The biggest thing she’s hoping for is a true winter. The Hurricanes are already better off than they were last year, now that they’re back home in Cheshire running on grass, as opposed to the hard asphalt of downtown Adams. With low numbers, keeping the injuries to a minimum is key.
"This year, the kids are really psyched. They’re a great group of kids," Gwozdz said. "They’re really positive and we’ll be in really great shape if we can pick up a few more bodies."