Five in the top 15 in 2013. Eight in the top 18 in 2012. Four in the top seven in 2011.
That is how dominant the Mount Greylock boys Nordic ski team has been at the MIAA state Nordic championships over the last three seasons.
We dont rebuild. We just reload, said assistant coach Matt Voisin, who also skied for Greylock. Hopefully it stays that way. It may not stay that way, but at least thats how its going now.
So what gives? That answer depends on who you talk to, but the common denominator appears to be the coaching staff.
Theyre just brilliant about training. They know exactly what we need, said senior Will Kirby, who finished fourth at this years state meet. They push us to work hard when we have to work hard, and they make us take it easy when we have to take it easy, which is at least as important.
At the top is Hiram Greene, and while he wont take any of the credit, it all started with him when he was the only coach for both teams.
He eventually got some help when his daughter Hilary joined to coach the girls in 1987, and the program now has two additional assistants.
I cant say too much for myself, but Hilary, shes the magnet, Hiram said. Shes the draw for both the little kids and even the older kids because she knows the sport. She really deals with more of the training than I do. I do all the dirty work, she does all the training.
Many of the athletes talk about the atmosphere that surrounds the program, not only on race day but throughout the week in practice. They say it starts at the top.
In recent years, snow hasnt been a foregone conclusion throughout the year, but that hasnt dropped team morale. Through scavenger hunts, relay races and the like, the coaching staff has kept interest and intensity levels high.
If theres no snow, if races get canceled, were used to that flexibility, Hilary said. We know that if were going to keep the kids hooked and interested and excited about skiing, we have to come up with something. So often that means doing craziness.
But like Kirby said, they know when to push, and both individual skiers and the program have benefited. Including this years state meet, Greylock has placed a racer in the top five since the 2008 meet. Results before then arent available.
While some topflight skiers have come through in recent years to claim those top spots, there have been just as many maybe more instances of the coaching staff squeezing every last bit of talent out of skiers.
Sophomore Jake Foehl, who finished 15th at states, fits the mold perfectly. When I came into seventh grade, I never skated before in my life and in four years, theyve turned me into a top-15 skier in the state, he said. So thats just absolutely ridiculous. They deserve all the credit for that.
Senior Sean Houston is another prime example. He was new tot he sport as an eighth-grader and finished 10th in his only state meet to close out his career.
The coaches, theyre not only fantastic coaches, but theyre great people to be around, Houston said. What they put into us is incredible. What they did for our skis, they were unbelievably fast. Its fantastic what they do for this team.
Without the initial hook through the craziness, some of these top skiers may not stick with the sport. But what they dont realize is theyre developing the basic skills needed through those games as seventh- and eighth-graders.
From those skills, were able to then build on them, get them fit, get them strong, Voisin said. Im pretty confident not too many other teams in the state work as hard. If you were to walk in the door on a given day to our weight room or our facility and see how hard these kids work day in and day out, thats why theyre successful.
Even with all the success the program has enjoyed through the years, theres no sense of We got this in the bag at the start of the year. Such a shift in mindset is exactly when a team gets beat. When coaches come to practice determined to work hard and get better, it trickels down to the team.
I think the attitude they come to practice with every day that we cant take anything for granted, White said. We have to continue to push ourselves and that we cant really rest on our laurels. We just have to keep pushing each other. I cant say enough about the coaches.