University of Maine-Farmington’s Simon Kern takes part in the Rail Jam snowboarding event at the USCSA Nationals in Lake Placid, New York, earlier this month. University of Maine-Farmington Athletics

When the University of Maine at Farmington’s snow sports athletes left for Lake Placid, New York, to participate in the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association Nationals, they had no idea what was in store for the week of March 9-13.

The Alpine, Freeski, and Nordic athletes entered the host city of the 1980 Winter Olympics in a pre-social distance era, and by the end of the week they were racing back to Maine to avoid potentially being stuck in New York for the long haul.

“It was it was an interesting thing, everybody was aware of, you know, what’s going on,” UMF Nordic coach Merit “Buzz” Bean said. “Friday morning (March 13), they said we’re canceling Saturday (March 14), and the instant we cross the finish line (Friday) we loaded up the van and we headed back to Maine, because I didn’t want to get caught at the New York state line with the border shut down or something. It was a really unusual experience.

Maine Nordic skiers who competed at the 2020 U.S. Collegiate Skiing and Snowboarding National Championships in Lake Placid, New York March 9-13 during the outbreak of the COVID-19. From left: Thomas Wing (Mt. Blue), University of Maine-Farmington; Isaiah Reid (Mt Blue), University of Maine-Farmington; Sam Holt (Orono), University of Vermont; Becki Bryant (Monmouth), US Air Force Academy; Andrew Seigel (Gould), University of Vermont; Peter Jordan (Portland), Cornell; Cam Bancroft (Oxford Hills), Clarkson; and Ben Buck (Dirigo), Clarkson. Buzz Bean photo

“My athletes, we had our own house, we rented a house there in Lake Placid. So, we tried to keep contact to minimum as much as we could. We didn’t go to the award ceremony one night towards the end when it was obvious that probably it’s best to stay away from large gatherings.”

Bean said that when the team was in Lake Placid there were no cases reported and the organizers seemed like they had a grasp of the situation.

UMF junior Isaiah Reid, when looking back at nationals and the number of teams competing, wonders if the virus ended up in Lake Placid during that week.

“That was a real fear, especially the West Coast teams like Stanford, Wyoming, Colorado coming in,” Reid said. “You don’t know where they stopped over (on their way to New York).

Isaiah Reid, a junior at the University of Maine-Farmington, skis in the USCSA 15km Classic Mass Start on March 13 in Lake Placid, New York. Submitted photo

“That was a little scary, especially the earlier events like the opening ceremony, where they weren’t canceling things with all these people and all this is happening.”

Reid said he believes the nationals went on as planned for as long they did because many teams across the country had already made the trip. As the days went on, more questions started to be asked.

“There were a couple races where we were like, ‘Are we going to go tomorrow?’ and all of that,” Reid said. “We weren’t sure of what’s going to happen, and there were awards ceremonies every night and a few of us were staying home from that. It’s interesting how the week progressed from a little more laid back to where we aren’t going out.

“Of course, we lost the last two races that we were going to do. We knew it was going to happen eventually, especially with the NCAA canceling its national championships.”

Reid, who graduated from Mt. Blue, said a few schools left even earlier. The University of Wyoming team had flown across country to get to upstate New York but decided to leave early and drive home. The University of Maine-Presque Isle, meanwhile, left Thursday, March 12.

Bean noted the Nordic World Cup had already canceled their event in Germany that was scheduled for March 14-15.

DOING WELL IN COMPETITION

University of Maine-Farmington Nordic skier Jordan Fried looks to make a pass on a fellow competitor in the USCSA 15km Classic Mass Start on March 13 in Lake Placid, New York University of Maine-Farmington Athletics

The Nordic men’s team finished in eighth place in the Combined competition, finishing one place better than they did a year ago.

Reid ended up 18th in the Individual Combined category, out of 56 competitors. In four events, he had two top-20 finishes, 12th in the Classic Sprint and 19th in the 7.5km Freestyle Interval Start.

Fellow Mt. Blue graduate Thomas Wing finished 34th in the Individual Combined, while teammate Jordan Fried finished one spot behind Wing.

Mullein Francis, the lone member of the UMF women’s team, finished 35th in the Individual Combined competition.

While COVID-19 was a concern, the Beavers also had to deal with mother nature.

“We had a great 15k race in the rain on Friday, it rained about an inch,” Bean said. “I told them it was going to be good skiing despite the rain, and they all had a blast, it was epic. Fifteen kilometers in the pouring rain and I hit the wax — they had their best races of the year.”

In men’s Freeski Rail Jam, Ryan Brueninghaus and Ryan Townsend both made it to finals for UMF, with Brueninghaus making podium with a second-place finish and Townsend placing 11th.

The Beavers’ Free Ride squad placed fourth as a team.

In snowboard competition, UMF’s Simon Kern finished in 17th place in the Rail Jam.

The UMF Men’s Alpine team finished tied for 11th in the Combined overall (Giant Slalom and Slalom combined).

In the Individual Combined, Christian Beliveau topped the Beavers by finishing 37th, followed by teammates Kyle Farrington (52nd), Simon Spear (55th), Charlie de Haas (70th), Zachary Berliner (72nd) and Hunter Bolduc (75th).

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