Coming into this year, five Cheshire High School skiers felt optimistic that they would be able to race in their senior seasons. Unlike many sports teams that have had to adjust to changes due to the pandemic, wearing protective gear was part of the normal routine for the Rams.
“I think we all went into the year positively,” said Lorenzo Pepe. “We are wearing masks anyway and skiing is an individual sport.”
While the schedule was condensed by the Connecticut Interscholastic Ski League, CHS boys and girls both raced in five regular-season meets at Mount Southington. Races ran in intervals to avoid over crowding on the hill.
“We got pretty lucky as one of the less-contact sports. We operated close to normal,” stated Zack Bates. “There were less people on the mountain, so that took away some of the energy that is usually there.”
With the number of spectators limited this year, Julia DePalma felt that there was an emphasis on camaraderie.
“The racing part is individual, but it meant a lot to have a team cheering when you go up the mountain,” explained DePalma. “Racers made sure to support and motivate each other.”
At the end of the regular-season finale on March 8, the Rams honored their senior class of Bates, Pepe, Nicholas Lockwood, DePalma, and Anna Kochiss for their contributions to the CHS program.
“It was nice to have the whole team there,” said Lockwood. “I’ll miss everyone, but we had a good run.”
Lockwood (48.16), Pepe (49.31), and sophomore Jeremy Bobruff (49.74) led CHS boys to a score of 310.7. Bates (53.77), sophomore Tyler Kochol (54.42), and freshman Jack Lengyel (55.3) also scored for the Rams.
“It is good to have younger guys and new blood step up this year,” stated Lockwood.
On Senior Day, DePalma clocked a time of 54.3.
“I was really pleased with my times,” said DePalma, who invited some of her friends to watch her race. “They surprised me and said that they were worried that I would fall coming down the hill.”
A two-time captain, DePalma has been the top girls’ racer for three years.
“I love skiing and being able to race,” stated DePalma. “I don’t know how many more chances I’ll have to go down a GS (giant slalom) hill.”
Having a small roster has hampered CHS girls in recent years. Since schools need to have at least six racers finish two runs to score as a team, Cheshire has been disqualified in some meets.
Cheshire had a bigger team this year, but due to a quarantine situation, the Rams finished the season with five racers.
“It was a struggle,” said Kochiss. “Since I do cheerleading and skiing, I had to quarantine.”
Kochiss has focused on cheerleading, but since her squad wasn’t allowed to compete this year, she decided to cheer at boys’ basketball games and race for the Rams.
“I wanted to improve my technique and have fun with the team,” said Kochiss, who had skied for six years.
Kochiss felt that the ski team was very welcoming.
“I was happy that I wasn’t the only senior this year,” added DePalma.
Other than DePalma and Kochiss, the remaining six girls were all juniors. In the regular-season finale, co-captain Olivia Kochol (57.73), Elizabeth Ingerson (58.95), Isabella Salsman (59.81), and Erin Esposito (61.69) finished after DePalma.
Sisters Gabby and Emelia Telese also race for CHS.
“I’ve seen the juniors improve so much,” reflected DePalma. “Since we don’t have any underclassmen, I hope they can recruit next year and find new girls to keep the legacy going.”
While the girls finished up in the regular season, Bobruff (51.98), Lockwood (52.22), and Pepe (56.04) raced in the State Open on March 15.
“It was a great time,” reflected Pepe. “When it hits you that this is your last race, there is a different feeling.”
Lockwood was happy to end his career at CHS. He was Cheshire’s top racer as an underclassman, but transferred to Chase Collegiate School for his junior year.
“It was a little difficult,” recalled Lockwood. “It wasn’t my first time switching schools, so I was able to adapt to the change.”
After Chase closed last year, Lockwood came back to CHS and rejoined the ski program for his senior year.
“Chase didn’t have a ski team and, even though I was racing on a team outside the CISL, it was good to compete with my friends again,” reflected Lockwood. “I was committed to the Cheshire team as a freshman and sophomore, so it felt great to have closure this year.”
Lockwood had previously raced for Toby Brimberg, but after Brimberg retired in 2019, he competed for Head Coach Duane Bass and Assistant Richie Tingle this year.
“I definitely miss Toby, but Duane and Richie are great coaches, too,” stated Lockwood. “Everyone has their own style and can teach you something.”
Pepe credits Bates for suggesting that he join the ski team as a sophomore.
“It was probably the best decision of my high school career,” reflected Pepe. “My uncle taught me to ski at age 7 at Mount Southington.”
As a senior, he became a full-time scorer for the Rams.
“It was cool to see him get so good,” said Bates.
Pepe and Bates enjoyed leading as team co-captains.
“We’ve been close even before high school,” recalled Bates. “Being a captain is something that I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, so it was good to accomplish that goal.”
Cheshire seniors don’t currently plan to race on a varsity team in college, but want to keep skiing in the future.