Skiing: Gorham’s Alpine Skiers Continue to Trucking
GORHAM – As the sun sets over the snow-covered track and football field, 11 sturdy members of Gorham’s Alpine Ski Team swing on their backs.
With their feet raised in the cold air, they twist their arms from side to side, almost touching the asphalt driveway adjacent to the school parking lot. Dawn Stevens, the mother of one of the skiers, works for a nearby gym and leads the team in dry-field training.
There are explosive jumps on the sidewalk separating the road from the sidewalk, deep squats and tucks on imaginary ski slopes, bursts of skipping rope followed by sprints around a distant cone. Nothing is fancy or high-tech, just a range of stretches and exercises depending almost entirely on body weight.
The Rams have never won a state ski championship and likely won’t win it this winter. In Class A, Falmouth, Farmington’s Mt. Blue and Auburn’s Edward Little have been the dominant programs in recent years, with Camden Hills and Fryeburg Academy also seeing occasional success.
Despite this, Gorham remains competitive, especially with a trio of junior boys who finished within half a second of each other in the slalom at last winter’s SMAA Alpine Championship. Sam Munkacsi, Trent Stevens and Owen Ballard finished sixth, eighth and ninth respectively.
They form the heart and soul of this blue collar group, trained by Sam’s father, Sean Munkacsi, and hardened over the past six weeks by Trent’s mother, Dawn Stevens.
Asked about the possibility of a state title, Sam Munkacsi (pronounced moon-COT-shee) had no illusions.
âWe’re definitely going to do our best to do it,â he said, âbut I don’t know how realistic it is. We all want to fight each other, and that makes us better, I think. “
Indeed, the friendly competition between the three best skiers of the team pushes them all towards better results and higher rankings. Sam comes from a USSA racing midfielder at Cranmore Mountain in New Hampshire. He works part time as an auto mechanic and divides his school time between Gorham and the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center.
The tired-looking 1993 F-250 pickup with a crown on the front bumper, occasional rust holes in the body and faded lettering on the doors is his. He watched lots of auto repair videos on YouTube, then bought an old truck to learn more by trial and error.
The vehicle serves as an apt metaphor for the Munkacsi ski team. It might not be pretty, but it gets the job done. It’s certainly not brash or flamboyant.
âWe don’t want to be like that,â Munkacsi said. âI wouldn’t say calm, but we’re not rude to anyone. We kind of stay for ourselves.
Ballard comes from freestyle skiing. He spent six years in the Gould Academy weekend program, initially in slopestyle, but quickly moved on to moguls. He didn’t start running on the gates until his first year at Gorham High, following in the footsteps of an older sister (Estelle), like Munkacsi (Claire).
âLast year my strength was giant slalom and not so much slalom,â said Ballard. “I would really like to try and equalize them rather than having one more dominant and one weaker.”
After struggling much of last season with the slalom, Ballard got guards that fit over his ski pole handles to protect his hands when he hits doors. He saw immediate improvement.
“With the post guards,” he said, “you have more of a direct line between the gates rather than going around.”
Like Ballard, Stevens didn’t start running doors until after he reached high school. Although he has been skiing since the age of 6, his best sport is mountain biking. He has run for the past three summers and said it keeps him in excellent shape for skiing.
âThe good thing is that the three of us have a bit of the same level of skiing,â said Stevens. âObviously we want to do well for our team, but it’s also a little fun, deep in our heads, just racing against each other. “
Sean Munkacsi has been Gorham’s alpine trainer for the past ten years. He has been an even longer educator, for a quarter of a century, and currently teaches the humanities at Scarborough High. He sees athletics as an extension of the classroom and describes ski racing as “like taking an ice rink and tilting it up to about 30 degrees and putting a bunch of doors in it.”
Negotiating such terrain is not always fun and often involves overcoming – or at least struggling with – fear.
âI think that’s what high school sport does,â he said. âIt teaches us to step out of our comfort zone. I mean, some of these guys’ journeys are brutal. It’s just pure ice cream from top to bottom. But it helps you.
Munkacsi invokes the words of a famous climber who said that fear is close to satisfaction. No Fear’s sticker slogan is a jug, according to Munkacsi.
âThe reality is that we are all afraid,â he said. âYou don’t want to speak in front of the class. You don’t want to be in that position or that position. Then you realize, let’s take it one step at a time.
His advice to those who are about to tackle a particularly precarious slope: ski the headwall and go straight to the finish. Survive at the top, run down.
âSometimes that’s what life is,â he said. âYou have to survive one thing and then you get the profit. Sometimes you just have to move on.
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