By Nick Curcuru
---- — The Manchester Essex ski team established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the North Shore Ski League last winter. And with the vast majority of its key contributors from last winter returning this winter, Manchester Essex looks to pick up right where it left off, as one of the most dangerous teams in the area.
The girls squad, which qualified for the State Championship Meet last winter, figures to be right back in the state championship mix while the boys team is looking to make a trip to the State Championship Meet as well.
“We expect to return to states with a girls team this season and hope to qualify and bring a boys team to the states for the first time in the program’s short history,” head coach Tim Wonson said. “Everyone has been working hard and they are all excited to represent the school in one of the toughest ski leagues in the state.”
The Hornets thrive in the North Shore Ski League despite the fact that they are facing schools that are far larger in enrollment. Manchester Essex competes with schools such as Andover, St. John’s Prep, North Andover, Austin Prep, Masconomet and Haverhill.
Although its record is not great, as quantity rules the team skiing circuit, the individual talent Manchester Essex has stands tall.
The Hornets enter the season with a wealth of returning skiers coming off of successful seasons last winter, none more important than senior captains Megan Jones and Brian McAuliff.
Jones has qualified for states each of the last two years, the first two years where Manchester Essex competed as a varsity ski team, and as a senior is looking like one of the top racers in the North Shore Ski League. As a junior last winter Jones won the North Shore Ski League’s Interscholastic Ski Race besting 48 of the best skiers in the league. Jones had the best combined time in the slalom and giant slalom runs finishing second in both races.
“Megan consistently finishes in the top three during the regular season and is an outright force on the race course,” Wonson said. “She is the most competitive, hardest working and probably the best skier this coaching staff has seen.”
The Hornets girls also return sophomore Alex Marshall and junior Lizzy White, both state tournament qualifiers last winter. Marshall became the youngest racer to every qualify for the state tournament as an eighth grader two seasons ago, the rule has since been changed to not allow middle schoolers to race in varsity races. Marshall also made the states last year with consistent top 10 finishes during the regular season.
White also qualified for the state race last season with a big performance in the final regular season race.
“Alex is one of the fastest, most gifted skiers in the league with limitless ability and potential,” Wonson said. “And Lizzy is an exceptionally graceful skier who finds speed where other racers won’t even know to look.”
Freshman Megan Clark will be moving up to the varsity level after dominating the junior varsity circuit last season winning every race but one.
On the boys side Brian McAuliff will be looking to make his third trip to states in three years, his younger brother Chris McAuliff, a sophomore, is also looking for a second state tournament appearance.
Brian McAuliff, a natural athlete who was a dangerous wide receiver for the Hornets football team this fall, is known for his aggressive style and natural ability to dominate a race course. Chris, on the other hand, continues to develop and looks to excel this winter as a sophomore.
“Brian has the potential to be one of, if not the best racer in the league,” Wonson said. “He is a natural athlete with the drive needed to capitalize on the abilities he already has.”
The McAuliff brothers, who both finished in the top 10 in the North Shore Ski League’s Interscholastic Ski Race last winter, will be joined by sophomores Parker Edington, William Kiley and senior Hunter Coons on the varsity squad this winter. Wonson has praised the work of all three of them in practice runs.