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Sun Journal Boys Alpine Skier of the Year: Evan O'Donnell, Edward Little

Apr. 1—Edward Little's Evan O'Donnell wrapped up his high school ski career with a senior season of high finishes and major individual and team accomplishments.

"I feel that I'm going to definitely miss it, for sure," O'Donnell said about his Alpine ski career ending. "I've been doing the sport for six years, and having it be over — for now, at least — I'm going miss it, and I feel some longing already."

O'Donnell skied to high finishes at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Class A state championships. He made the KVAC First Team, KVAC All-Academic team, KVAC First Team and was picked as Edward Little's Most Valuable Skier Award.

He also has been chosen as the 2024 Sun Journal Boys Alpine Skier of the Year.

Edward Little Alpine ski coach Scott Berube said O'Donnell's "internal drive and competitiveness helped him to be excellent in what he does." Berube, who coached O'Donnell for three years, also said the senior is a "very strong athlete" who puts in a lot of work on and off the snow.

"Other than his awesome scores, it'll certainly be his leadership, like in the weight room and on dry land," Berube said about what the team will miss most without O'Donnell next season. "The way he gave it all he had, whether it would be in a race or practice. Just that experienced leadership."

O'Donnell finished second in the slalom and fifth in the giant slalom at the KVAC championships, leading the Edward Little boys to a conference title. He also placed fourth at the Eastern Shootouts to earn a spot on the Maine State Alpine Team that competed at the Eastern High School Championships.

"The accomplishment I'm probably most proud of is that I made the Maine State team this year," O'Donnell said. "That was really a goal for me that I was hoping to get ever since my freshman year and ever since I knew it was an option to get."

O'Donnell said that slalom was his best discipline this season. Usually, he is more comfortable in the giant slalom, but this season he said he "had a couple of bobbles that I suffered some placements."

One of those bobbles happened during the first run at the Class A state championships.

"On the first run, he was 23rd," Berube said. "He hipped out, and then he dialed it back in. Luckily, he wasn't thinking of himself, so he finished for the team and his next run he came in sixth, which gave him an eighth place overall."

The following day, O'Donnell finished second in the slalom, which helped the Red Eddies place second.

Berube said he was proud of O'Donnell for finishing both the GS and slalom races, something he hadn't done before this winter, and for pushing past a bad result when other athletes so often quit.

He also said that O'Donnell did what he could to propel the team forward, even if it did not always give him the best personal result.

"Sometimes he would score for the team, rather than just think about winning the race," Berube said. "There were probably times, specifically, where he could have tried to win the race, but knew it would probably be better to have a solid top-five finish and score first for the team and help the team to victory."

O'Donnell was a team captain this season for the largest Red Eddies squad in years, which included several freshmen. O'Donnell said the younger skiers "blended in beautifully, and it was really easy to have fun and introduce a bunch of new kids to Edward Little ski."

Berube said O'Donnell set a good example for the rest of the team.

"In practice, he always gave 100 percent; and it wasn't so much that he wanted to be the fastest down each practice run, but that he wanted to do better than his own results and improve each run," Berube said. "That was a great characteristic in leadership to show the younger kids how to really get after it."

O'Donnell was also trying to beat Edward Little's other two seniors, Ethan Levesque and Brayden Bashaw. The three started skiing together in seventh grade, which created a friendly rivalry.

"It's always been nice to have people you can count on that are trying to beat you, and it's really just awesome to be able to push each other, especially with our timing and practices, and make sure nobody's slacking off," O'Donnell said. "That just makes the environment a little more fun, almost like it was a game every day."

O'Donnell said this biggest improvement throughout his high school career was his mindset, especially on race days. In past seasons, he'd do well in practice, but when it came time for big events — "When it mattered," he said — he often got in his own head and raced poorly.

"This year, I felt that I kind of figured it out, and in the big races this year, I was comfortable enough to ski my fastest and not blow out at the same time," O'Donnell said.

This shift in mentality allowed him to meet three of his preseason goals this season: to earn a spot on the podium at KVACs, reach the podium at states and make the state team. The team's goals were to win KVACs, which they did, and win states, where they came in second.

Also, after the high school season, O'Donnell placed first in the 18U slalom at the Eastern Regionals at Gore Mountain in New York on March 23.

O'Donnell also said that while skiing and meeting athletic goals are important, he values his academics even more.

"Even though I am an athlete, my main focus 99 percent of the time is on school," O'Donnell said. "I'm proud to say that I got the All-Academic award this year, which was really important to me. Having the school component of the student-athlete is really important to me as well."

O'Donnell doesn't have a college choice nailed down yet, but he plans to study economics and hopes to still find time on snow in between classes.

"I'm definitely going to miss the conversations on the bus rides and all of the teams hanging out together at practices and during dryland meets, because we were really just kind of like a family," O'Donnell said. "Everybody was friendly, there was no tension and everybody was just there to have a great time and do some serious things. That's something that I really appreciate from everybody on the team."

2023-24 Sun Journal All-Region Boys Alpine Skiing Teams

2023-24 Sun Journal All-Region Girls Alpine Skiing Teams