By Nick Curcuru
---- — Megan Jones capped off her senior ski season in a big way on Tuesday at the State Ski Championships at Berkshire East Ski Center in Charlemont.
The Hornets senior had one of her best runs of the season on Tuesday turning in a third place performance in the giant slalom out of nearly 150 competitors to help the Hornets girls to a seventh place finish in a field of nearly 50 schools.
“She is an exceptional student athlete, one of the most driven kids I’ve met,” head coach Tim Wonson said of Jones. “She has steel focus in a sport that is usually decided by hundredths of a second. Without much room for error she makes it work race after race.”
Jones’ third place finish on Tuesday is a fitting end to a season in which she won six out of seven North Shore Ski League races finishing second in the other. She also took home her second straight Interscholastic Ski Race championship which took place in the week leading up to Tuesday’s state race.
Jones and the Hornets were not only working against the stacked field of the best high school ski racers in the state, they were also working against an extremely difficult race course. The course at Berkshire East is double the size of the course at Manchester Essex’s home mountain Ski Bradford. Berkshire East’s course is not only longer, it’s also more windy when it comes to the giant slalom.
“The giant slalom was really tricky for the kids,” Wonson said. “It had a lot of turns, then it opens up in the middle allowing you to pick up some good speed and the bottom third is really steep. That’s what makes some of our times so impressive. They are used to running the giant slalom in around 20 seconds and today a lot of the times were around 40 seconds. It was a tough adjustment but everyone did a great job.”
Jones was joined by three teammates who all improved upon their seeding entering Tuesday’s meet which led to the seventh place finish for Manchester Essex.
Alex Marshall had a big performance in the slalom finishing 12th in the 148 racer field. Freshman Megan Clark had two very consistent runs finishing 66th in the giant slalom improving her seed by almost 20 spots. Lizzi White also improved her seed 20 points with a 60th place finish in the giant slalom.
“They all helped us get points,” Wonson said of the girls squad. “We had some very strong and consistent runs to improve our numbers and help us finish seventh. It was great all around.”
Senior captain Brian McAuliff was the lone competitor for the boys and he battled through some tough situations finishing in the middle of the pack in the giant slalom and finishing the slalom.
McAuliff was able to use his superior athleticism to get out of a few binds according to Wonson.
“He made a couple of really athletic moves in the last third of the giant slalom to finish the race with an impressive run,” Wonson said. “He’s such a great athlete and it really shows when he races. He was able to finish so impressively because of his athleticism.”
In just their fourth year as a varsity program the Hornets continue to set the bar high against strong competition.
“It was a terrific way to cap off the season and I’m immensely proud of all of them,” Wonson said. “There no way you can hand the ball off to your teammate in ski racing, it’s just you and they all pushed through a difficult course today. I can’t say enough about the pride and the effort from this team.”