WINDSOR -- Her final high school Nordic race was one hill and a downhill away from completion. Some where, some how she forgot about the fatigue in her legs, the burning in her lungs and found one last match to burn. Mount Greylock’s Kat Chenail was going to empty the tank.
"Going up Shaw Road, at the very top, my coach Matt [Voisin] was there, and he does this thing where he says ‘You need to burn a match now.’ That means you have to make a surge," Chenail explained. "You only have a certain number of matches you can burn. He was like ‘Kat, you burn a match right now, you’ll drop Josie [Marshall].’ So I just sprinted to the top of the hill, just sprinted over the top."
She was able to hold off her good friend Marshall through the downhill and the final turn, which setup a sprint to the finish directly into the gusting wind.
"I just got really low [on the downhill] and then [the final stretch] was just brutal," Chenail said. "I was just holding on."
She held on for seventh, her best result in four state championships, on Monday afternoon. Her previous results were 19th, 17th and 22nd. Results like that may indicate a long history of skiing, but that’s not the case.
There are a myriad of ways to get involved in Nordic skiing: Parents, friends, local clubs, after-school activity. None of those were how the senior Mountie found her way into a pair of skis.
The former hockey player had a passion for running and was looking for another way to remain fit between the cross country and track and field seasons as an eighth-grader.
Enter Nordic skiing.
"I thought I was going to enjoy it," she said. "Then once the Greylock ski team brings you in and brings you under its wing, it’s like the most amazing program in the entire world."
She spent four years learning the technique and climbing the ranks. But she was always just behind the county’s best. Something changed last summer and Chenail’s focus intensified. She was determined to be the best runner and best skier around.
Greylock girls’ coach Hilary Greene said she enjoyed watching Chenail make that commitment, and it carried right on through the ski season.
"If she wasn’t able to make a practice, I knew she was doing it on her own because it meant that much to her," Greene said. "She just stuck with it, and then it’s so great to see the results, the rewards of your hard work."
Her work ethic and the results it produced wasn’t lost on her teammates.
"She’s an amazing skier, she puts so much hard work in," senior Stephanie Adamczyk said. "She’s the heart of our team."
She’s become the face of the team and she led the charge in every race this season. She wreaked havoc on the Berkshire County League, taking a first- and three second-place finishes before her career culminated with a seventh-place finish at the state championships.
The team came up two points shy of a sixth straight title, but it couldn’t keep her from enjoying her final Nordic ski meet.
"Senior year is just full of endings and knowing you’re never going to do [certain things] again," she said. "I definitely think that not being on the Greylock ski team next year will be the hardest part of senior year."
Inside the numbers:
Years skied: 5
State titles: 5
State meets raced: 4
Best state finish: 7th (2013)
2012-13 season: 1 first place, 3 seconds