Newton South boys’ Nordic ski team wins first state championship

Newton South High School’s boys’ Nordic ski team won the first Nordic State Championship in the school’s history on Feb. 14.

Senior Liam Sakakeeny led the way with a first-place finish, followed by teammates Ian Brenner (4th), Dashiell Martin (8th) and Levin Brenner (9th). The team came together to cap off their unforgettable season with a coveted historic state championship.

Junior Levin Brenner said the boys’ shared goal of winning the state championship propelled the group as they all poured their efforts towards the teams’ overall success. 

“This year, once we fully realized that we actually had a really decent shot at winning, we came together,” Brenner said. “Obviously you’re happy with how you place, but a lot of the guys were focused a lot more on the team results than the individual results.”

The team faced many unforeseeable challenges that forced the group to adapt and rely on the leadership of the team’s five captains, including Sakakeeny. Two races early in the season were canceled due to lack of snow, and the Newton teachers’ strike occurred over the next two races.

“Part of the way we train for Nordic is dryland practice. It’s something we’ve gotten ingrained into part of our training just because we know we don’t have snow as often as we could,” Sakakeeny said. “We do a lot of bodyweight exercises as well as running for the aerobic [benefits].”

The team did more intense training than in past years due to the team’s belief that it could be seriously competitive. The preparation included more intervals, strength training and more advanced technique work. Sophomore Dashiell Martin said the team was well prepared thanks to the hard training. 

“The place that we ski at doesn’t have any hills, and the state course has a lot of hills, so the captains were prepping us for those hills. We were doing hill repeats, doing hard workouts, and we had an amazing wax team member who helped us get our skis really fast for that race,” Martin said.

Sakakeeny said the team was fueled by its narrow defeat in the state championship the year before.

“Last year, after having lost to Mount Greylock by two points, we definitely had that fire under our feet. We were very eager to come back this year and show up and try to beat them, which we ended up doing,” Sakakeeny said. “We knew we had a shot at it, so we were really just trying to work hard and try to build a team that we knew was going to be able to beat them.”

The team’s close bond and fun environment was an important part of the group’s historic success, according to Sakakeeny.

“The one thing that I love about the Nordic team is that we find the happy medium between doing the work but also having fun. We’ve seen great improvement in individuals and improvement in the team as a whole, but we’re still having the same amount of fun we had in years past,” Sakakeeny said. “We’re becoming more of a serious competitor, but we’re also still taking that time to have fun and goof off, which is what makes our team our team.”

Newton South High School Scores

Basketball, Boys:

Lions 66 (10-10), Weston 65 (12-7)

Marshfield 60 (10-10), Lions 54 (10-10)

Duxbury 60 (10-10), Lions 58 (10-10)

Andover 63 (15-5), Lions 40 (10-10)

Basketball, Girls:

Lions 71 (5-15), Weston 42 (3-14)

Norwood 40 (15-5), Lions 21 (5-15)

Newburyport 45 (10-10), Lions 42 (5-15)

Lions 40 (5-15), Dracut 34 (6-17)

Concord-Carlisle 42 (11-10), Lions 31 (5-15)

Lions 44 (5-15), Waltham 43 (5-15)

Hockey, Boys:

Boston Latin 8 (12-8), Lions 1 (0-19-1)

Newton North 3 (6-11-2), Lions 1 (0-19-1)

Medfield 4 (14-7-1), Lions 1 (0-19-1)

North Andover 5 (11-8-1), Lions 1 (0-19-1)