Ashland-Medfield Ski Team Has A Bright Future

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
March, 2018
Article Body: 

The Ashland-Medfield ski team is in its third year and the co-op program is gaining momentum.
When the self-funded program began in 2016, the two schools had a 12-member roster that increased to 18 last year. Now, there are 22 competitors — 11 skiers from each school. Evan Sherr, a 20-year resident of Ashland who serves as the team’s assistant coach, likes what the two communities are building.
“The future is bright,’’ he said. “Our numbers are up, there are five freshmen on the team and we’re maintaining momentum. We’re two schools but one team and we’re blessed to have fantastic kids who get along so well. We’re a self-funded organization that hopes to be incorporated into the Ashland sports budget for next year.’’
The team, which is a member of the Central Mass. Conference Ski League, competes against 11 other schools at Ward Hill in Shrewsbury. The league includes Algonquin, Hopedale, Hopkinton, King Philip, Medway, Millis, Nipmuc, Shrewsbury, St. John’s (Shrewsbury), Westboro and Wachusett.
Ashland is the host school in the co-op with Medfield and Sherr is delighted with the way that arrangement has progressed. “Team chemistry is excellent,’’ he emphasized. “Skiing tends to be about individual racers but we’ve build a terrific bond. Not only is there a great team concept, but there’s also interpersonal relationships that have been developed. The kids do things together in either town.’’
Sherr and head coach Nancy Schlussel have molded a program that has a no-cut philosophy and even includes a jayvee level.
“There are some attributes we like in our skiers,’’ said Sherr, who works as vice president of Windgap Medical, a start-up pharmaceutical company. “Of course, technique and skill are important, but we also want competitors who are coachable and value sportsmanship. We want the kids who have a recreational ski background to improve to the point of being proficient downhill skiers.’’
Schlussel, like Sherr, likes the progress the program has displayed in year three. The boys squad finished with 2,477 total points for a sixth-place rank and the girls compiled 2,199 points, good for a fourth-place finish in the league.
“The program is strong,’’ she noted. “The team’s welfare is predicated on individual performances and when you get that, the team prospers. The culture of the team is so supportive. The kids shun individual glory and prefer team success. The camaraderie that exists with this co-op team has yielded excellent results.’’
The senior captains are a good starting point when assessing the team’s leadership. They include Ashland’s Donny Jones and Kaleigh Donovan and Medfield’s Sophie Griffin. “They’re first-class leaders, they lead by example, they’re welcoming and they’ve displayed great sportsmanship,’’ Sherr said.
The trio gets additional high praise for their desire and dedication to develop their skills. “Highly skilled, Donny was the top-ranked skier in the league last year,’’ Sherr said. “He trains like he races and he races like he trains. Kaleigh’s background isn’t in racing but she’s a natural skier, very coachable and possesses a mindset to excel. Sophie doesn’t have a racing background but she’s been a lifelong skier. She’s all about leadership and organization. She’s steady and works to develop her skills.’’
Sherr also points to two other skiers — Ashland freshman Elaine Jones and Medfield junior Alex Hagood — for their intensity and focus. “Elaine has excelled at ski racing for years and seems like she was born with skis on,’’ he said. “She’s really intense and focused. Alex is also intense and consistent. He has a ski-racing background and I would expect him to qualify for the state meet (March 6).’’
An integral group of skiers from Ashland who are consistent contributors and figure into the scoring statistics include Nathan Brouwers, Jim Parisi, Olivia Sewell, Sabrina Weiner, Abby Williams, Paulina Chumakov, Jivan Baghsarian, Emma Sheridan, Emily Henault and Shane MacDonald.
Overall team success depends on capable and competitive racers and Medfield provides that element. Medfield skiers include Jean Johnson, Anna Johnson, Sophie Lussier, Rachael Morrison, Angelina Rijo, Joey Romanowski and Drew Sly.
On an individual basis, Donny Jones finished the regular season as the league’s top male skier again, compiling 1,387 points. Qualifying for the state tourney, which will be held March 6 at Berkshire East in western Massachusetts, were Donny Jones and Hagood for the boys and Elaine Jones and Donovan for the girls.
Schlussel is delighted that schools are supporting kids who want to try a non-traditional sport. “The community support in both towns is fantastic and the athletic directors’ backing is unwavering,’’ Schlussel emphasized. “We’re hoping that community support will lead to our inclusion in the 2018-19 Ashland school budget.’’
Sherr, who skied as a youth, is also encouraged downhill skiing has reached varsity status at a variety of schools. “From what I’ve heard, the reputation our program has is very good,’’ he said. “The talk is that if you ski, then the Ashland-Medfield ski team is the place to be. It’s a welcoming group.’’