Looking forward to a promising future has been the driving force for Manchester Essex ski team this season, much as it has been for the team’s coach for over a decade now.
“When I started to coach this team 11, 12 years ago, my daughter was in first grade,” explains ME ski coach Tim Wonson. “We come from a ski race family. Kids who are exceptional ski racers peak and lose their love for the sport sometimes. Our goal was to put together a program and pick each other up and help each other, to make this a lifetime sport.”
More than 10 years later, that belief and spirit still hold true for the Hornets boys and girls ski squads. This hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for either team – the boys had yet to win a meet with a couple of meets left to go at the start of the week, the girls team picked up only one victory against Newburyport earlier this winter – but those who are on the team have done a fine job of supporting one another and keeping that momentum going, with the promise that better things may be on the horizon.
For example, the girls’ team was buoyed by senior Emma Wonson – the aforementioned daughter of the coach, now leading the Hornets in scoring – and Grace Suscko, Anya Bixby, Lydia Schwartz and Casey Twombley. It’s a team that boasts a tiny roster of only five high schoolers, making it difficult to score enough points to really be competitive against other teams in the North Shore Ski League (NSSL). And while the varsity skiers have helped to keep things going this season, there is hope for better results in the near future.
“We have Rose Warner – she’s in eighth grade – who has won every single jayvee race she’s been in,” explains Wonson. “She can’t because of MIAA rules, but if she could have raced varsity, she definitely would have been third or fourth overall in those races.”
Right behind her would have been Kiernan Day, another junior varsity skier who finished second in most of her races and could make a difference once she is eligible to join the varsity squad.
It’s a similar situation for the boys’ squad: Cameron Light is one of three seniors who has helped to carry the load for a six-person varsity squad, but the performances of junior varsity standouts like Owen McLain and Grey West show the promise that could await the team next season.
“Next year, when Owen and Grey come up to ski varsity, they will change the dynamic of the league,” says Wonson. “The same thing for the jayvee girls when Rose and Kiernen get to ski varsity.”
For this week, however, the focus is on finishing up the 2022 winter season with the last few regular season meets, capped off by the Interscholastic Meet next week.
“This is the first year we won’t have someone on varsity qualify for the state tournament,” explains Wonson. “Next year, we will be in a position where we can bring a team.”
Which makes the Interscholastic Meet next week the season finale for the boys and girls’ teams. The top seven skiers on each team compete in a giant slalom run, a slalom run and for the best combined time overall.
“It’s fun because it’s very hectic, you pack a lot in,” Wonson says of the event. “Coaching in skiing isn’t like coaching in basketball or football, where you’re sending in plays all the time. You’re actively helping maintain courses, getting everybody lined up and ready to go. After that it’s the race awards, and that’s a good way to wrap up the season.”