BENNINGTON — Gorham High School skiers, led by Karyssa Lachance and Natalie Harmon, brought home the NHIAA Division IV Girls' Alpine Skiing Championship Runner-Up honors in a tension-filled day of racing at Crotched Mountain on Feb. 17.
After the morning giant slalom event, only 9.5 points separated the lead team, Derryfield (359), from fifth place Profile (349.5). One point behind Derryfield was Lin-Wood (358), Sunapee had 355. Gorham sat in fourth place with 353 points.
Gorham started strong with Lachance grabbing the giant slalom gold medal (67.3 seconds). Erika Wentz (Derryfield, 68.0) won the silver, and Sarah Balmpied (Profile, 68.64), the bronze. Harmon, fighting a respiratory illness, was fourth (68.64). Also scoring for Gorham were Danielle Cotnoir (19th, 72.75) and Riley Fitzmorris (32nd, 78.56). Amira Robertson, 36th (80.14), Emily York 42nd (84.45).
Lachance added a silver medal (91.94 seconds) in the slalom, but not without some drama. After a solid second run, Lachance caught up to a Littleton skier in front of her right at the finish line; no finish time was captured, necessitating a mistake-free re-run.
“Additional runs required because of a timing issue are notoriously problematic. With the fatigue factor and emotions running high, third runs often end abruptly and unfavorably. Fortunately, Karyssa really gutted it out and came up big,” said Ski Coach Sherrill Tracy.
Miranda Shilling (Derryfield) took home the slalom gold medal (89.24) while Sierra Price (Profile) collected the bronze (92.52). Just off the podium for the second time, Harmon finished fourth (93.33), with Cotnoir 20th (106.71) and Robertson 24th (117.06). Adding depth for Gorham were York (29th) and Fitzmorris (33rd).
Profile snuck ahead to win the slalom (360), with Gorham moving up to second (358), and Lin-Wood just one point behind in third (357) . Last year's runner-up, Sunapee, dropped out of contention after losing their top slalom skier (straddled gate). Giant slalom team winner, Derryfield, was unable to get more than one skier into the top ten in the slalom.
“There is such parity in our division. After the giant slalom, the door was wide open for the top five teams. All the top teams had at least two skiers capable of cracking the top ten. No room for errors. Then it was all about the rest of the team, and where those third and fourth skiers ended up. Danielle Cotnoir, Riley Fitzmorris, and Amira Robertson really came through for us,” said Tracy.
Final team scores: Lin-Wood (715), Gorham (711), Profile (709.5), Derryfield (703), Sunapee (693), Hopkinton (671.5), Littleton (588), Moultonborough (502), Lisbon (183).
“I am proud that our girls skied so well. Not only to be runner-up, but to finish within four points of a very strong Lin-Wood team. Last year's championship team was unique enough that the thought of coming that close again was never on my radar.” Tracy went on to say, “In a great show of sportsmanship and friendship, the Lin-Wood and Gorham skiers gathered together for a joint photo at the end of the awards ceremony.”
Lachance and Harmon, along with the other top ten finishers in slalom and giant slalom from each of the four NHIAA divisions, qualified for the Meet of Champions to be held Thursday, March 2, at Cannon Mountain. Top finishers at the Meet of Champions will represent Team New Hampshire at the Eastern High School Championships on March 10-12 at Attitash Mountain. Lachance will be competing for a return trip, finishing tenth in giant slalom at the EHSC last season.
“We will be sad to see our seniors, Natalie Harmon and Emily York move on. Both have been six-year members of the team,” said Tracy.