Amherst’s Willy Wright places third at state nordic freestyle championship

  • Amerst Regional senior Willy Wright, third from left, after receiving his third-place medal at the MIAA Nordic Ski Championships on Tuesday at Berkshire East. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

CHARLEMONT — Willy Wright crossed the finish line first, but he didn’t win the State Nordic Freestyle Championship, Tuesday at Berkshire East.

The Amherst Regional senior raced in the first flight and traversed the 5-kilometer course in 14 minutes, 33.8 seconds.

Two racers in the second flight completed their three laps faster: Concord-Carlisle’s Henry Johnstone won in 13:45.4, and Newton North’s Jacob Jampel was second in 14:33.3.

“I was going for it and going as hard as I could,” Wright said.

He walked from the finishing chute directly to the screen displaying in-progress results. By the time he made it there, the two racers faster than him already finished. He watched more results roll in with one hand resting on his cheek.

By taking third, Wright tied Amherst’s best finish ever at the state meet: Sydney Field also took third in 2012.

“I’m really happy with it,” Wright said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a couple weeks now, and it’s the right note to end on.”

Wright was unhappy with his 28th-place finish at last season’s state meet and wanted redemption in his senior year. The lack of snow in Massachusetts didn’t stop his training. Wright went to Vermont to stay sharp and upped the intensity of his running workouts.

“That paid off,” Amherst co-coach Nat Woodrow said. “He was primed and ready for this race.”

The course didn’t make it easy on him. Berkshire East wasn’t the race’s original site. It was moved there because of lack of snow at Notchview Reservation in Windsor. All of the snow skiers raced on was man-made, which made for an icy night.

“They made do given the conditions were challenging,” Amherst co-coach Steve Bruner said. “It says a lot about who they are as athletes in general, but they’re fantastic skiers.”

The Hurricanes finished 10th with 150 points. Concord-Carlisle won the team championship with 26 points. Team scores are calculated by adding the places of the team’s top-four finishers.

Luke Sedor Protti took 19th for Amherst in 15:53.2. It was the senior’s second time in the top 20 in four attempts at the state meet.

“I was hoping for a little better, but coming off an illness, it happens,” Sedor Protti said. “It was a great season.”

Peter Treyz took 61st for Amherst (18:49.9), while Ethan Saxenian rounded out the Hurricanes’ scoring in 68th (19:13.2).

Amherst finished 13th in the girls championship with 237 points. Mount Greylock won the title with 24.

Stella Wenczel posted the Hurricanes best finish in 34th. She crossed the line in 22:29.

“It was pretty sketchy. There were really deep spots, and it was icy,” the junior said. “I managed to not fall. That was a real accomplishment.”

Wenczel was concerned she played her race a little too safe in the conditions instead of pushing for a better time.

“I think it’s better to play it too safe then fall a bunch and lose that time.”

Catherine Larson took 36th for Amherst (22:32.6).

Augusta Fricke was 67th (26:19.1), and Violetta Foster finished 105th (32:50.0).

Amherst is graduating six boys, including its top four. The Hurricanes are also losing four girls to graduation.

“We have to build that program up a little bit,” Bruner said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.