Another New Hampshire high school winter sports season, another strong showing by the Monadnock Region.
The 2020-21 season is in the books, and Sunday was capped, locally, by two area girls teams capturing state championships. For Hinsdale and Conant, the wins weren’t unexpected. Along with Fall Mountain — which lost to Conant in the Division III final — they were among the favorites all year.
The Division III game was a rematch from a year ago, and Conant won its second straight title and ninth overall. For Fall Mountain, it was the third consecutive final, an achievement in its own right.
In Division IV, Hinsdale won its second title in four years, in its third final during that span.
So yeah, in that way the winter sports season was pretty much standard. But really, it was perhaps as irregular as a season could get. With schools still feeling their way through a pandemic, there was some question whether there would even be a season. In fact, while the region is home to some of the strongest unified basketball teams in the state, no local schools even fielded a team this winter, out of health concerns.
Those teams that did play, across a variety of sports, found themselves wearing masks during competition, socially distancing on the sidelines, and playing shortened, geographically determined schedules. Conant and Hinsdale, despite being in different divisions, played each other three times. Some games and matches were canceled when one team or another had to quarantine players. And there were changes to the state tournaments; in hockey, every team that played went to the postseason.
For Keene’s boys, an early tournament exit was a letdown after two straight years at the top. But that they got a season at all, after the state had shut down hockey programs at one point in 2020, was a plus. Keene’s girls joined Monadnock and Fall Mountain to form a regional team (as did Conant and ConVal) and made the quarterfinals before falling to top seed (and eventual champion) Bishop Guertin. The Keene boys cross-country skiers finished third in Division I. Fall Mountain’s boys did the same in Division II.
And there were individual standouts in the region, as well, from ConVal’s Molly Dishong (and sister Ella) in Alpine skiing to Keene bowlers Bradley Baybutt and Gabe Wunschel.
But there’s no question the greatest success of the winter sports season has been in maintaining the health of players, coaches and others while allowing the contests to go on. That can’t be underestimated as we ready for spring sports, a year after all spring play was wiped out by COVID restrictions.
Congratulations to all those who got to compete this winter, and especially to those who achieved success.