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A Nipmuc Takes to the Slopes
There is at least one, the winter sports team, at Nipmuc that has been enjoying the record-setting snowfall this winter, the newly formed Warriors' ski team. Head coach Joe Pugleasa is leading a small but skilled squad this winter, and hopes the fledgling program will see a better turnout next year. "We had a number of kids who had interest, but most had not competed before," he said. "It's small, but I think once it gets in the yearbook the word will spread."
Just to get a team together proved to be a task as daunting as any double black diamond. When Pugleasa's oldest son, Fernando, came to Nipmuc last year, he already had years of competitive skiing under his belt. Pugleasa's wife, Barbara Griscom, started looking into other schools in Central Mass that fielded ski teams. After a year's time, a mountain of paperwork, and with the help and support of athletic director Bill Leaver as well as the administration at Nipmuc, the Warriors ski program was born.
Even starting the process a year in advance, things came right down to the wire. The team did not receive final approval from the MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association) until two weeks before rosters needed to be submitted, another reason for the relatively small turnout. "We were contacted by others who had interest but after the roster deadline, we could not accept any other athletes," said Pugleasa.
This year's roster is comprised of sophomores Fernando Pugleasa and Corey Lennox, as well as junior Kelsey O'Hagen. The team trains and competes at Moore Hill in Shrewsbury, and always against teams with substantially larger rosters of up to 20 or 30 skiers. Even so, Nipmuc has had success. O'Hagen recently posted a top 10 finish, and Pugleasa and Lennox have been steadily improving.
Ironically enough, the snow that provides for such great skiing conditions has also been a bit of a hindrance due to the MIAA regulation which does not allow teams to practice or compete on days when school is not in session. Pugleasa said the rules committee is considering adopting a waiver for skiing given the nature of the sport.
With three talented and experienced skiers who are all returning for at least one more season, Nipmuc has laid the foundation for its new program. Pugleasa's main goal after the season is to work hard to get more student athletes involved.
"We have a high rate of good skiers but it would be more fun with more kids," he said. "We are going to start pumping it up much earlier next year since we know there will be a team and we will take all who wish to join, both male and female athletes. Hopefully we can put our talents to use and to see the team swell."




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