As the ski season winds to a close, several Hopkinton skiers are expected to land a spot in the state meet. The boys and girls teams showed constant improvement throughout the year as they have sharpened their racing skills.
“We have newer kids on the team and they might be good skiers, but they have never raced before,” said coach Shawn Mato. “So a lot of what we do is teaching them how to race and how to go around the gates. We get them to do it in training and then on race nights.”
Both teams have competed well in a challenging league. The girls have challenged for the top spot during most competitions, while the boys have pushed for top-five finishes in the deep division.
Junior Klara Niss has been the top girl on the team most nights and brought considerable racing experience to the Hillers this year. She has excelled in both the slalom and giant slalom, Mato said, and qualified for states during her sophomore season as well.
Annaleigh Crantz, Lila Mato and Libby Herlihy all entered the final race of the regular season with a chance to earn a spot at states, Mato said. Co-captain Ally Barry has been a steady leader for the Hillers all winter, the coach added, and all of the team’s top skiers showed strong improvement compared to last season.
On the boys side, junior Sam Holly has been one of the Hillers’ top racers and a captain. James Flynn, a new member of the team this winter, is a strong skier as a junior and headed for states, Mato said.
Mato praised freshmen Barry O’Brien and Blake Murphy for their performances this winter, while sophomore Will Spinale has greatly improved his racing ability.
“We have a lot of newcomers who are gaining more experience,” Mato said. “The boys division is fairly tough, and most of the boys in the top 20 or so have had previous race experience. We have a team with good skiers, but they don’t have as much race experience. We are developing that as we go.”
The Hillers succeeded this year despite roster turnover. Last year, Hopkinton had 22 athletes on the team, but seven either graduated or were international exchange students. The roster swelled this year to 30 athletes, half of whom are new to the team.
“A lot of time has been spent with new kids, getting them acclimated to competing,” Mato said.
The unseasonably mild temperatures have added another challenge to all of the ski teams this year, but Mato said Ski Ward Ski Area in Shrewsbury has been up to the task when it comes to providing a great place for the teams to compete.
“They have done a fabulous job accommodating us this year,” Mato said. “There are other places that haven’t made it happen for other leagues, but they have done a great job to make it happen for us.”