Ashland’s Jones: Top-Ranked Skier As A Sophomore

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
March, 2019
Article Body: 

Ashland High’s Elaine Jones is only a sophomore but she’s already achieved the No. 1 ranking in the Central Mass. Competitive Ski League (CMCSL).
The 5-foot-4 Jones, who also plays softball and soccer for the Clockers, was the league’s second-best ski racer as a freshman last year but she’s dominated the field this season, winning four of her five league races. Her ranking shouldn’t come as a surprise, primarily because she started skiing as a two-year-old and was six when she started downhill racing.
Her coach, Nancy Schlussel, raves about Jones’ ability on the slopes and greatly admires her team-first attitude.
“Elaine is focused, competitive and dedicated to the sport,’’ Schlussel said. “She’s technically sound, has a high ski IQ, employs solid strategy on her runs and has a good feel for the snow. She’s got passion for skiing but she’s also a team player. She wants all her teammates to do well and she’s quick to share ideas and strategy on the conditions.’’
The Clockers, who co-op with Medfield, finished the regular season in third place in the league standings. Jones was optimistic that Ashland-Medfield could end the season in one of the top three slots. In fifth place after three meets, the girls vaulted into third after the final meet of the regular season.
“At the start of our campaign, my team goal was for us to finish in the top three,’’ Jones said. “Ski racing is new to some of our skiers but we’re improving as a team and our future should be bright. Our results are getting better every meet.’’
The CMCSL consists of nine teams that include Algonquin, Hopkinton, Westboro, Shrewsbury, King Philip, Millis, Nipmuc, Wachusett and Ashland-Medfield.
Jones rates her third slalom competition in the league as her best outing this season. Her combined time in the slalom was 54.23, a victory by .43 seconds.
“A lot of factors play a role in a race,’’ Jones said. “Although the length of the course at Ward Hill (Shrewsbury) is the same, others aspects change. The way the gates are set differ from race to race, weather could be a factor, especially the wind, and the condition of the snow might be slushy. I take a tactical approach for every race. I try to figure things out and often try to memorize the twists and turns on a course.’’
Jones labels her ski-racing style as “aggressive,’’ and she says her approach is “all or nothing.’’ Her enthusiasm is another plus and she exhibits that when discussing the attributes of her five teammates.
Ashland’s captains are senior Emma Sheridan and junior Emily Henault. “Emma is positive, able to adapt and be flexible and she’s sharp,’’ Jones noted. “Emily has a desire to succeed, she’s fundamentally sound and also positive. She’s grown in the sport.’’
The Clockers other three skiers are all freshmen — Margaret Henault, Amelia Agostinelli and Kate Campion. “They’re new to ski racing but they’re so positive and willing to learn,’’ Jones emphasized. “All of them are improving, adjusting and developing technical skills.’’
Schlussel is quick to celebrate Jones’ willingness to share information that’s a plus for the rest of Ashland’s skiers. But, Jones goes a step further in trying to elevate her teammates’ outlook and demeanor. “If ski racing is new to a participant, it can make one nervous,’’ she said. “I try to calm any worries and boost confidence. I try to get teammates pumped up for races and help them deal with any of the course’s conditions.’’
Jones credits Schlussel’s coaching style and her knowledge as keys to Ashland’s progress. “Nancy is truly amazing,’’ Jones said. “She’s so qualified and she’s such a great motivator. She gets the best out of us, she’s patient and she’s a solid teacher. She’s also the boys team coach.’’
While Jones entered this season trying to establish herself as the league’s top skier, she’s well on her way to achieving the same goal on the academic front. She’s a high honors student and she’s planning to be a pre-med major. She’s also active in other activities — secretary of the sophomore class, a member of the Make A Wish Club and actively involved in Project 351, which assists in fund-raising events and helping food pantries.
“I’m not sure if I’ll have time for sports in college if I take pre-med courses,’’ Jones said. “If I do, it would be either skiing or softball.’’
Relying on a competitive philosophy that combines winning, reaching one’s potential and having fun as the key components, Jones says: “Winning is very important but if you don’t win, then it’s important to improve.’’
Jones’ athletic involvement spans three sports and she’s acutely aware that valuable life lessons can be learned from a competitive atmosphere. “I’ve learned through sports how to be independent,’’ she noted. “Athletics also teach you how to work with others and to strive for team goals. Overcoming adversity and learning to be resilient are other lessons that help in adjusting to various situations.’’
The girls ski team no doubt has learned its lessons well and will continue to improve. And, with Elaine Jones competing at a very high level, the program’s future should be bright.