Sliding into Ski Season

Krystin Paine Contributing Writer

    With the winter season creeping upon us, UMF students are getting excited about ski season. Skiing is one of the most popular outdoor winter activities Maine has to offer and a great way to make fun memories with friends and family.

    Priyanka Miller, junior and psychology major, has been skiing since she was five years old. “It’s like a freeing feeling to be skiing down a mountain.” Miller said.

    “My fondest memory of skiing is when I went with a few friends and we were teaching one of my friends how to ski,” said Miller, “One of my friends almost fell down the mountain but it was just really fun and it was just really nice to hangout with them.”

    Garrett Pooler, sophomore and rehabilitation major, has never been skiing but is willing and excited to try this year. “My friend, Noah Erskine, was the one who convinced me to try skiing this year,” Pooler said. “I’m looking forward to learning how to ski. I’m also a little nervous because it is mildly dangerous.”

    “I think it will be a fun new experience that all my friends can enjoy doing together,” Pooler continued. “I plan to go skiing at Titcomb Mountain some time during the winter, hopefully as soon as it opens.”

    Emily Murphy, senior and rehabilitation major, recalls the first time she skied. “It was absolutely amazing. I didn’t really know how to ski but I yeeted downhill going full speed screaming as everyone on the ski lift watch me from above” she said. “Then, I crashed at the bottom but popped right back up laughing because it was the most fun I had all semester. I was happier than Eloise on a Friday afternoon.” 

    “I would love to go this year and have another great experience. It would be silly not to take up the chance to go,” said Murphy, “I skied at Titcomb Mountain and it is so inexpensive and reasonably close to campus.”

    Chivan Panosain, sophomore and undeclared major, has been skiing around two years. He usually skis at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley and Titcomb Mountain in Farmington. “I like the thrill of going fast down the mountain,” Panosain said, “The first time skiing, I went to the top of the mountain at Sugarloaf. It was absolutely beautiful. Looking down from the top, I saw everything covered in snow. The view was amazing.” 

    “Definitely almost hit a tree, though,” said Panosain, “I had to throw myself to the ground to stop. At the time, I didn’t know how to. I was zooming.”

   “I am so very excited for ski season,” Panosain continued. “I can’t wait to try doing tricks on the rails and other stuff. I just want to improve my ability.”

    Noah Erskine, sophomore and secondary education, has skied since 5th grade. “I remember one time, a bunch of my buddies and I loaded the car and went to Sugarloaf,” said Erskine. “We got to the mountain and it was a very nice day. The lines were very short. This made it easier to go up the hills and trails quicker.”

    “Hitting the rails was such a thrill,” Erskine said. “My adrenaline was pumping because it is very dangerous to do tricks. Each time improving every trick made it easier to go down the mountain.

    Some places to ski or snowboard around Farmington are Titcomb Mountain in Farmington, Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley, and Sunday River in Newry, or Lost Valley in Auburn.

Albinism Won’t Stop This Alpine Skier

Albinism Won’t Stop This Alpine Skier

Krystin Paine Contributing Writer 

    Mackenzie MacDonald, a UMF junior and alpine skier, has been invited to train in Breckenridge, Colorado to ski for the second year in a row and hasn’t let her skiing skills be hindered by a visual impairment caused by ocular albinism.

    Ocular albinism is a genetic condition that affects a person’s pigmentation in the hair, skin, and eyes. This reduction of pigmentation in the iris, the colored part of the eye, is what causes MacDonald’s impaired vision. It is a recessive gene disorder, meaning that both parents have to be carriers of this gene. This gives the child a 25% chance of inheriting the condition.

    “This is how all recessive gene disorders work,” MacDonald said. “My vision is kind of hard to explain, so I have no depth perception at all and very little peripheral vision.”

    MacDonald explained that her visual acuity is 20/200 with glasses. This means that whatever a person with perfect vision can see at 200 feet, she can only see at 20 feet with glasses. “I honestly have no idea what it is without them, just that it’s worse. This also is the exact acuity that you have to have to be considered legally blind,” MacDonald said. “It also means that I will never be able to drive. The law in the state of Maine is that you must have 20/70 vision at the very least.”

    Last December, MacDonald left the Maine mountains to ski at the Disabled Sports, USA’s Ski Spectacular in Colorado. “There’s so many people with so many different types of disabilities [and abilities]. It amazes me to hear all their stories and how they got to where they are,” she said.

    Feeling incredibly grateful for the experiences, she loved connecting with all of the people she met there. She loved that despite the different situations, all of the people worked hard to be there and were working even harder to succeed while being there. “It’s just amazing and I hope everyone can experience something like that. It just opens your mind up to so much,” MacDonald said. She even met people who had the same dream as her, to become a Paralympic alpine skier.

    Jenny Hancock, also a UMF junior and skier, agreed with MacDonald and said that MacDonald’s future was the paralympics. “I see a bright future ahead for Mack. I want her to believe in herself as much as I believe in her, have her dream big, and not look behind her.” Hancock said. 

Mackenzie MacDonald skiing during a race. (Photo courtesy of Disabled Sports USA)

    MacDonald and Hancock met spring semester of their freshman year when they were both on ski team and were ski coaches together for snowcats. “Who knew our short little car rides would turn into us becoming best friends,” said Hancock. “Skiing with Mackenzie is truly inspiring to me. No words describe Mack and her skiing. It brings tears to my eyes talking about it. It instantly puts a smile on my face.”

    Hancock was ecstatic when talking about MacDonald’s invite to go back again this year to train because it was a great experience for her last year. “Mackenzie got a taste of different conditions we don’t always see here and it will be awesome for her to learn more about herself in the progression,” Hancock said. “I could feel her passion, and happiness this sport brought her. Mack has improved a ton since I have known her. I am very proud of her frustrations that she has overcome!”

    While in Colorado, MacDonald had a guide with her, Brie Marquis. Marquis’ job is to either ski in front of MacDonald and have MacDonald follow her, or behind MacDonald, to help watch and improve her skills. “For me, my guide skis in front of me and I follow them at a very close distance,” MacDonald said. “My guide tells me if there’s going to be a pitch change, when the hill gets steeper, when the snow consistency changes, soft to hard or fluffy snow or vise versa, and bumps and stuff like that.”

    “We talk through a headset radio setup. So I can hear her and she can hear me. This is something new we have implemented for me in the last couple years. It’s different for every visually impaired athlete according to their abilities,” said MacDonald. “It’s a really cool thing to watch how each athlete uses their guide because everyone has different needs.”

    “I believe that having Brie step up and wanting to be Mack’s guide is awesome,” Hancock said, “I think [Makenzie] has grown and is still growing, but having consistency with Brie being her guide is wonderful.”

    Marquis, not only MacDonald’s guide but a UMF skier as well, agreed with Hancock when talking about being MacDonald’s guide and going to the event with her. “It was an incredible experience. For this event, guiding Mack meant meeting all new people and being immersed into the Paralympic community was so cool,” Marquis said. 

    To Marquis, being a guide for the first time was not easy. “Last collegiate season, Mack and I did not have a microphone on our helmets so that made it a bit harder,” Marquis said. “I can only be about a gate length ahead of Mack in order for her to see me so not having a microphone meant I have to turn around just about every gate.”

     “At Paralympic nationals, we did have a microphone which made the task a lot easier. However, I still had to turn around a lot. It really just meant that Mack could give me feedback in the course versus at the bottom.” Marquis said. “The toughest part in my mind is that I cannot fall. My top priority is getting Mack down the hill so me falling makes that impossible. It’s a tough job to be honest, but oh my goodness, it is so worth it.”

    Marquis and MacDonald both skied on the Alpine Ski team at UMF. “Freshman year, Mack was quiet around our team and didn’t have a consistent guide,” Marquis said. “Last year she opened up, socially as well as in her skiing ability. At our college races, she was beating a handful of able bodied skiers and her confidence in herself grew so much. She made huge strides in her skiing and I cannot wait to see her keep improving.”

     MacDonald will be leaving to train in Colorado from Dec. 9 to 15. Marquis will be joining her to be her guide once again.

Intramural Sports For Everyone

Krystin Paine Contributing Writer 

    Intramural sports let students and many faculty members of UMF get exercise and have fun in an inclusive way. Intramurals consist of co-ed teams playing games like basketball, volleyball, kickball, flag football, indoor soccer and many others, including some water sports.

    Jake Harris, senior and psychology major, has been doing these sports since his sophomore year. “I think there is definitely a need for intramural sports. My teams have always had a really enjoyable environment and being able to kick back and play mediocre volleyball is so fun for me,” he said. “We don’t win often, but that is the beauty of our team. We play to have fun rather than to win, so being able to keep a fun environment when losing is something not a lot of teams can do.” 

    Harris had only one minor drawback. “I don’t agree with allowing college level athletes to play intramurals. . .I wish there was a separate tier system for intramurals because it feels as if someone who doesn’t play basketball regularly won’t have a chance against the college athletes.” 

    Garrett Pooler, sophomore and rehabilitation major, is new to intramural sports, having only started playing this year. “I just got asked to play and thought why not do it. I knew nothing about the sport I was getting into but figured it would be a lot of fun,” he said. “I was definitely right as I’ve had a great time and have made a lot of new friends that I value deeply.” 

    Pooler felt his involvement with intramurals has had a positive impact on him. “I think intramural sports is one of the best things this campus offers. I know for myself I didn’t do them my freshman year and I wish I had. It gives me a reason to go out to see people I may not normally see or interact with. It also promotes exercise in a fun way than just running.” 

    David Blattstein, junior and community health major, agreed with both Pooler and Harris. “I find it is a positive reinforcer for meeting new people, getting physical exercise, and possibly sparking new interests.” 

    Blattstein transferred to UMF his sophomore year and felt welcomed by joining these teams. “This immediate new homebody of a friend group let me tag along with them into all their activities and daily events, which would lead me to join intramurals. It has given me something to look forward too,” he said. 

    “Especially on a very stressful day, knowing I’ll be with most of my friends makes the day much more bearable.” Blattstein believes that intramurals give the people of UMF a chance to challenge themselves and push out of a comfort zone they might not always get pushed out of. “Even if you’re not interested in sports, or have no desire to, I think everyone should try it at least once throughout their college experience.” 

    Intramural volleyball and soccer have two of the sports to take place in the Fitness and Recreation Center this past month. To sign up for an Intramural sport contact Leah Brackett at or go on their facebook page at umfimsports/.

Men’s Rugby Shapes Up For New Season After Losing Star Players

Krystin Paine, Contributing Writer

    Men’s rugby at UMF has been gaining more attention lately as the team has proven to be a competitive force with multiple championship wins in recent years. The team holds high hopes for the upcoming season despite the loss of some talented players.

    Jack Neary, a senior, is optimistic about how the current team is shaping up. “We have definitely lost a good amount of talent on the team in the last year, but we have players who are stepping up and filling those roles,” he said. “That’s the great part about the sport, when you lose a senior, a new player has something to prove in the upcoming season.”

    The club started in 1991 with only about 15 people. Since then, the men’s rugby team has been the Maine Cup Champs in 2011, 2013 and 2014, won the New England Rugby Football Union Championship for the past two years, and had undefeated seasons in 2017 and 2018. This year’s team is trying to repeat all of these successes and more.

    Neary is preparing for his last year as a UMF rugby player after returning to the team for the past five years. He talked about how the team has affected him and changed his life for the better. “It’s had a positive impact in the sense that it’s introduced me to a sport I knew virtually nothing about when I started. I really enjoy playing it and I want to attempt to play when I’m finished here at UMF,” he said. “I think my impact on the team has been pretty minimal in the sense that I am a small piece of a large puzzle.”

    He says the team is also working on chemistry between players by making sure the new members, “feel comfortable working with some of the veteran and returning players.” 

    Sam Urszinyi, a sophmore, played last spring and is returning for his first fall semester with the team, has some things to say about veterans helping newer players. “They try to make sure that you understand positioning a lot in games and practices,” he said. “They try to tell us to focus on the basics in a Bill Belicheck, ‘do your job,’ environment and increasing defensiveness and ball security. I’ve been watching a lot more rugby which I’m hoping will aid in my game sense.” He also said that rugby has taught him better time management and commitment.

    Another player, Davion Jackson, returning for his second year, said that the team plans “on repeating the [winning] streak this year by continuing to practice hard and keep everyone healthy every game.”

    Jackson also said he found a support system in the team during his time as a player. “Honestly, the rugby team has had a big effect on me throughout my first year of college here at UMF. It’s helped me through some pretty tough times and the camaraderie just made me feel more like I belonged here considering there aren’t that many people who look like me around here.”

    Like Neary, Jackson is also hopeful for how the new players can make up for what the team has lost. “As of now, we have a lot of new guys who are ambitious to play the game, but aren’t really knowledgeable on the game quite yet,” he said, “but the chemistry and willingness to learn more is there.”

    The opening game of the season is on Sept. 28 at 11 a.m. They will be playing against the University of Maine on UMF’s Prescott field. The game is open to the public with free admission. For more information, contact Erin Buckland or Kristen Swan.