Young Nordic skiing teams ready for 2019 EISA carnival season

Junior captain Kaelyn Woods headlines a young, but experienced, Bates Nordic skiing team. (File photo by Steve Fuller/flyingpointroad.com)

RUMFORD, Maine -- The Bates Nordic skiing program begins its 2019 Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association season on Saturday, January 12 at the St. Lawrence Carnival and the Bobcats boast an exciting mix of youth and experience, including the return of junior captain Kaelyn Woods, who competed for Bates at the NCAA Championships last season.

Woods (New Gloucester, Maine), daughter of Bates head coach Becky Woods '89, was one of 13 women's Nordic skiers from the East Region selected to compete at NCAAs last year. Woods led the Bobcat women in every race during the carnival season and also took first place in the Chummy Broomhall Cup (Maine state championship) in the team's week off from the EISA circuit.

She made an impressive NCAA Championships debut, placing 26th out of 40 athletes in the women's 5K classical technique race. Woods followed that up with a 23rd place finish out of 40 competitors in the women's 15K freestyle race, the best NCAA Championship finish by a Bates Nordic skier since Beth Taylor '12 finished 19th in the 5K freestyle race in 2012. Woods combined with Bates alpine skier Griffin Mueller '20 to earn 23 points at the four-day championship, good for an 18th-place showing among 23 participating teams.

"Kaelyn brings a real energy to the team and has a really good understanding of training as well," coach Woods said. "She really leads during practices and is able to make decisions particularly when we spread out during training. She makes sure that everyone knows where they are going and she also has the ability to set the pace, which really helps the women's team a lot." 

Senior Samantha Pierce (New Gloucester, Maine) is a captain on the women's team for the second straight year. She is a two-time NESCAC All-Academic selection and earned All-State honors with an 8th place finish in the Maine state intercollegiate Nordic ski championship last season. Pierce is the Bobcats' lone senior in 2019.

"Sam is just a rock and she has been for the last few years," coach Woods said. "She has a real commitment to the program and she has a great ability to pull people together. She is there day-in and day-out putting the time in and leading by example, which is exactly what we need." 

The Bobcats look forward to the collegiate debut of sophomore Maya Seckinger (Winthrop, Wash.), who missed all of last season due to an injury.

"Even though she has been with us, it feels like a new addition," coach Woods said. "She is back and getting faster everyday." 

Junior Annie Blakslee (Edwards, Colo.), sophomore Eliza Blood (Queensbury, N.Y.) and sophomore Zoe McKinney (North Conway, N.H.) round out the returnees for the women.

First-years Olivia Skillings (Portland, Maine), Rebecca Feist (Concord, Mass.) and Katherine Weinberg (Wayland, Mass.) are already impressing coach Woods, with Skillings skiing up at the front end of the pack during training. 

"Skillings has a background in cross country running and Nordic skiing; she is focusing just on skiing this year and I think that has made a big difference in terms of her strength," coach Woods said. "All of our first-years are getting along really well and training well together."

The Bates men's Nordic skiing team is comprised entirely of underclassmen, with sophomore captain Carter Ros (Hailey, Idaho) leading the way.

"From the minute Carter walked into my office as a first-year, I knew he would be a leader on this team," coach Woods said. "He really understands the little things that need to be done to make things run smoothly and he is always willing to do them. It might be as simple as picking up the food from Commons before we leave, but he's always on that. Kudos to him for being willing and able to step into the captain's role as a sophomore."

In addition to Ros, the Bobcats have five sophomores returning this year. Sophomore Brad Ravenelle (Portland, Maine) appears poised for a breakout season. 

"You are going to see a lot from him, just steady progress," Woods said. "He is a workhorse and his commitment to training on a daily basis is a great example for the rest of the team." 

A pair of first-years are ready to make an immediate impact. Henry Raff (Hailey, Idaho) ran with the men's cross country team in the fall and traveled to NCAAs with the Bobcats. He and Nathaniel Badger (Edwards, Colo.) have impressed coach Woods right away.

"This will be an introduction to what is to come," coach Woods said. "Everyone is healthy and we are very excited for the season to start."

This is Woods' 25th year as the Bobcats' head coach. She is the longest-tenured current head coach at Bates.

"I am honored to have been at the helm for this period of time," coach Woods said. "I never thought when I started I would be here for 25 years but the reason I have been is we have amazing student-athletes that keep me invested. It's a privilege to be part of their experience at Bates."  

The Bobcats will host the NCAA East Regional at Black Mountain on February 22nd and 23rd. The NCAA Championships are set for March 6 and 8 at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont.