Kanc Classic has become a tradition among North Country high school skiers

By MEGHAN McCARTHY McPHAUL
Special to the Sunday News
January 19. 2018 9:21PM
Racers from North Country high schools gather near the top of the Kanc Classic as Profile skier Dan Doyle stands in the starting gate just before his second run. (MEGHAN McCARTHY McPHAUL)

LINCOLN -- Fat snowflakes are falling at the Kanc Recreation Area, illuminated by the lights lining the slalom course. The high school skiers are doing their pre-race inspection, and the lodge at the bottom of the small hill is bustling with activity: racers getting ready, kids milling about the snack bar, and parents and community members starting to gather outside.

This is not your typical ski race.

"It is a one-of-a-kind race," said Lin-Wood senior Lucy Loukes, who skied in her fifth and final Kanc Classic Wednesday night. "It's something amazing and unique."

Held since 2011 on this town-owned, single rope-tow hill, the Kanc Classic is open only to North Country high schools - Littleton, Profile, Woodsville, Gorham, a single racer from Lisbon, and host Lin-Wood - and it's an event the skiers look forward to each season.

Because it's limited to local schools, the race is smaller than other alpine skiing competitions these teams see through the winter. In terms of spectator attendance, however, it's much bigger.

Other high school races are held Fridays during school hours, which means most parents, other students, teachers and community members aren't able to turn out and cheer for their racers.

At the Kanc Classic, though, "Everyone from Lincoln comes, which is awesome," said Loukes.

Littleton High School senior Ben Sweeney shares a pre-race moment with his mom, Erin Sweeney, at the Kanc Classic. (MEGHAN McCARTHY McPHAUL)

From the crowds standing around the finish area and in pockets along the race course Wednesday night, it seems lots of people from other communities show up, too, although not everyone was watching the race. A happy horde of kids played off to one side of the hill, sliding on bums and bellies down the slope, throwing snowballs and tumbling in a scrum of snow boots, wet mittens, and rosy-cheeked smiles.

A parent watching suggested it's a scene David Dovholuk would have loved. Dovholuk, who died last year at 55, went above and beyond in his work for the town, which included maintaining the Kanc ski hill - making snow, grooming the trails, and doing all manner of odd tasks that come with running a ski area, no matter how small.

This year, Lin-Wood coach Aaron Loukes dedicated the race to Dovholuk's memory, renaming the event the David Dovholuk Memorial Kanc Classic.

"David Dovholuk was everything to this town," Loukes said, noting that Dovholuk was key to starting the race and building it to the legendary status it has already earned. "What this means for this town, this place, what David built, the pride of skiing on your local hill is just amazing."

Jane Duguay, a friend of the Dovholuk family, read a statement from David's wife, Chris Dovholuk: "To David, (the Kanc Classic) elevated our rope-tow diamond in the rough to big mountain status. Hopefully the race will continue long into the future."

If the racers have any say in the matter, the Kanc Classic's longevity seems secure. With a bonfire roaring at the top to warm chilled toes and fingers, racers going casual by throwing flannel shirts atop speed suits, and friends and family gathered below, the Kanc Classic was a hit from the start.

Seniors from each team were introduced and acknowledged prior to the start of the race Wednesday, and Lin-Wood skiers selected music to play from the speakers as they raced.

"This is by far one of my favorite races," said Profile senior Sarah Blampied, who has twice won the event. "The music, the bonfire, the community feel. And it's nice to see your friends at the bottom."

While Blampied didn't repeat her victory Wednesday, she was happy to be at the Kanc Classic, and she did take home a fourth-place plaque. Profile teammate Madison McLaren and Lin-Wood's Jacob Morris notched first-place finishes and will be the first names on the new David Dovholuk Memorial plaque, which will hang in the Kanc tow hut.
As per tradition, the high school seniors from each team were recognized before the start of the Kanc Classic. (MEGHAN McCARTHY McPHAUL)


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