Gilford’s Claudia Cantin and Belmont’s Ben Charleston show off their awards on the podium at Cranmore last month after capturing J5 championships. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
April 02, 2012REGION — Sitting in a classroom on the second floor of Belmont Middle School last week, 10-year old Ben Charleston of Belmont and 11-year old Claudia Cantin of Gilford come across as your typical pair of fifth-graders.
But if you think they're typical, try explaining that to the rest of the field at the 2012 Buddy Werner League state championship last month.
Cantin and Charleston each finished at the top of the J5 standings on the girls' and boys' sides respectively, as they captured state titles held at Cranmore Mountain March 10-11.
Charleston took first in all four runs (two GS, two slalom), while Cantin was first in three of her four runs as the pair defeated fields of about 100 of the best skiers in their age bracket in the prestigious race.
"I was nervous before my first run but after that I felt better and knew what to expect," said Cantin, who attends Gilford Middle School. "It was exciting to know you've worked really hard and done well. To see that hard work amounted to something."
Charleston, whose father Kevin coaches the Belmont High School varsity ski team, was downright dominant in sweeping all four races at Cranmore.
"I felt well-prepared," said the fifth-grader at Belmont Middle School. "I listened to my coaches, trained four times a week and on weekends to get ready. It's good to feel like you've succeeded and accomplished something."
Both Cantin and Charleston are members of the Gunstock Ski Club, and this winter marked their third competing for the squad. Both went on to ski at the Francis Piche Invitational at Gunstock a week later, where Cantin won both races and Charleston grabbed a third place finish.
"When I joined, I really liked it and met some friends," Charleston said of the GSC. "Gunstock is my favorite place to ski because I go there all the time for practice and I know the mountain."
Cantin, who was a state champ last year as well, also prefers shredding the terrain at Gunstock.
"That's where I learned to ski," she said of the Gilford hill. "It's cool to get to see my friends that I ski with every day there. I've met some of my best friends because of that."
The duo lauded coaches Scott Workman (lead J5 coach at GSC), Linda Otten, Garrett Workman and Dan Wheeler for their help in guiding them to state titles.
With the snow now gone for the season and spring in bloom, the countdown has already begun until next winter after such successful seasons on the mountain. In the meantime, Charleston is playing lacrosse and baseball during the spring while Cantin also tackles lacrosse before switching to field hockey in the fall. Both get their time on skis over the summer however, as waterskiing is the sport of choice when the weather heats up.
"It's kind of sad to see all the snow go away," admitted Cantin, who had hoped for a long ski season after the October snowstorm. "But I play other sports and train at them to get ready for next winter."
Now that his hectic winter has come to a close, the spring sports season seems like a piece of cake for Charleston.
"It almost feels like you're really not doing that much," he said of making the switch from skiing to lacrosse and baseball. "But I like playing them when there's no snow on the ground."
In any event, the future is certainly bright for the pair of talented athletes. While they currently lead the way for a loaded GSC J5 class, Cantin hopes to one day be a professional ski racer and Charleston wants to someday ski in a World Cup race. If the recent results prove anything, it's that the sky's the limit for the duo.