I-L's Emelia Pendergast and the nordic ski teams excelled during the winter season, as the boys' team won the state title and the girls' team was the state runner-up. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
March 17, 2014MEREDITH – While most of the teams featured young and inexperienced varsity rosters, it was a tough winter in the standings for the Inter-Lakes High School athletic program. But the Lakers did have some solid successes, paced by the nordic ski teams that brought hardware back to Meredith. The boys' team captured an elusive Division IV state title after several second-place finishes, while the girls' team was the D-IV runner up at the state meet.
"The boys had been runners up for several years now so they were excited to be champs," said I-L athletic director Jeff Cloos. "The girls since I've been here hadn't placed I don't think, so they were happy to get runner-up."
The nordic programs are some of the healthiest at Inter-Lakes numbers-wise, and head coach Steve Olafsen's squads certainly led the winter sports in participants.
"I think we had 27-28 participants and coach Olafsen runs a great program and they do a great job," said Cloos. "He puts in a lot of extra time and effort. Pretty much every year to have some form of banner or award coming is always nice."
The nordic teams are also busy preparing the trails in which they ski, and that was especially evident during the lead up to the NH Coaches Series race held at the Sandwich Fairgrounds this winter.
"It kind of shows why they are such a program, they all take part in the action of that," said Cloos of helping groom trails. "When we were hosting the Coaches Series race, they went up there a couple days ahead of time and they were all up there helping out. They didn't have to be there but there's that commitment. They don't have anyone lining their fields or taking care of their infield, they have the courses set up themselves. That's kind of neat about the culture of nordic skiing."
The girls' basketball team struggled with low numbers and injuries, though the Lakers did grab a win over rival Moultonborough Academy this winter.
"I think one of the issues was that we had several injuries and untimely things happen," Cloos explained. "Almost every week, we thought we hit a point where we had everyone back but there were several concussions, injuries. At no point did we have everyone back at the same time. Numbers-wise we were hurting already, but you can sustain that if everyone is healthy. Once one or two players get hurt or sick, then that kind of decimates the whole program because you have to pull JV players up and it makes it more difficult. I think even though the numbers were low, we could've sustained a consistent season if we didn't run into those injuries. I appreciate the effort that the girls who were there put in every day though. It was a dedicated group, especially during a tough season."
The boys' basketball team had their postseason hopes dashed, as the Lakers finished in a tie with several teams for the last few slots. But after tiebreaker totals were sorted out, I-L finished on the outside looking in, taking the 21st position in D-III with the top 20 squads making the playoffs.
"They did need that one more win," said Cloos. "Really the game that killed them was the game at Newfound late in the season. That was the one they really had to have. Not being able to win that game was tough. They always play well at home in our environment but they've struggled on the road. They were competitive though and they were in the hunt. Both (coach) Mike (Rathgeber) and I figured out the tiebreakers to the 'T' where we finished, and we compared it and it was exactly the same. But there's a good core coming back next year and the JV's had a real good season so I think they've shown some promise for next year."
The hockey team was incredibly young this season, and new head coach Chuck Yaeger molded his inexperienced squad into a solid foe by season's end. The veteran head coach's work impressed several head coaches around Division III.
"I think Chuck has done a great job with the team," Cloos lauded. "As a first year coach it's always hard to get that transition but he set the groundwork with a lot of young kids. There's more Inter-Lakes kids than we've ever had and they're enthusiastic about the program. As the season progressed, they got better and better and the scores proved that. They were a lot more competitive at the end of the year and they're very positive about the outlook for next year and the next couple of years."
The swim team was small yet again but saw the end of the career for senior Sarah Sundius, who was a fixture at the state championship meets during her four-year tenure at I-L.
"We had three seniors this year so I'm interested to see how it goes next year," said Cloos. "Sarah had a great, great season, she finished first or second in a couple of the meets they went to. She had a great career swimming here and some of the younger kids are coming back with a nice core for the future."
The layoff in between seasons will be short-lived however, as the first day of spring practice is scheduled for March 24 at the high school level.
"I've been working on the indoor schedule through April vacation at this point," Cloos said last week. "Hopefully we don't need it that long but you never know."