As his team spent its Jan. 5 practice working again with a relatively snowless terrain, Shenendehowa nordic skiing head coach Jim Zimmons said with a laugh.
“We’re the people that hunt snow,” he said. “If there’s a snowstorm, we drive to it.”
While most have likely enjoyed the minimal snowfall so far this season, that has made life tougher for the Shenendehowa skiers, as there is only so much they can do to get ready for their meets without help from Mother Nature.
“One of the things that’s been really hard with this year is we got that good snow early,” said Zimmons. “Everyone was psyched to be on snow so early.”
Lately, though, the squads have been playing the waiting game and traveling far for meets; the club’s scheduled home meet for Jan. 2 was moved to Cronin’s Golf Resort in Warrensburg, roughly 50 miles away, since it was the closest place with snow the teams could find.
“We watch the forecasts just hoping for snow,” said Plainsmen junior Owen Putman. “We cope as much as possible, and do as much dry-land stuff as we can.”
Generally, that means the squad has stayed inside and worked in the high school’s new weight room, while the teams have also used roller skis to simulate their sport on pavement outside. Roller skis attach to boots similarly to cross country skis, and they are smaller than normal skis.
“It’s good training; it’s what we do in the summer and fall to get used to the ski motion,” said Sarah Duclos, a senior for the Plainsmen’s girls squad. “But being on the snow is always better.”
The lack of snow has not hurt the teams’ results, so far this season. Through their first three meets, both the Shenendehowa boys and girls had each won two competitions, the single defeats being a second-place finish for the girls and a third-place finish for the boys. Putman has led the boys squad, while senior twin sisters Amy and Sarah Duclos have done the same for the girls.
At the club’s sprint competition in Warrensburg, Putman was the top individual boy, while teammates Aaron Huneck and Adam Chrzan came in third and sixth places, respectively.
“We knew that, on the boys’ side, we’d be very strong this year,” said Zimmons. “Last year, it was very close between us and Guilderland, and they graduated a number of people from last year — and we didn’t. . . . I don’t think there’s anyone in Section II as deep as us.”
Meanwhile, the Shenendehowa girls have found enough support for the Duclos twins to create their strong start. Out in Warrensburg, Sarah Duclos came in second place and Amy Duclos finished in third, while Julia Geisel and Ellie Trader came in seventh and eighth, respectively.
“A bunch of our girls are seniors, so we’ve all been together since freshman year,” said Amy Duclos. “It’s exciting to see the progress we’ve made, and we’re really excited and looking forward to sectionals.”
By then, the hope is that there will be some consistent snow for the Plainsmen squads. Regardless, the squad is trying to look on the bright side of its season’s challenging start.
“When I was a freshman, we had a total of eight days on the snow, including races,” said Amy Duclos. “So, I’d say this year hasn’t been too bad.”