With talent and numbers on their side, Staples boys and girls ski teams have reason to be optimistic.

The Staples squads now number 61 girls and boys who are focused on developing and improving their racing techniques. And, there appears to be added excitement and dedication to this mastering this sport which has truly been a family affair in Westport for 30 years with names like Vornle, Russ, Lahiff and Hardy, among others continuing to represent Staples.

Jonathan Shepro returns as head coach of Staples boys squad. A USSA-certified ski instructor at resorts such as Keystone, Colo., Shepro has contributed invaluable technical experience to both the girls and boys ski teams.

For three years running, the boys squads have qualified for the Championships, most recently in 2009. He looks to match and exceed last year's record, partially attributable to the largest 35-boy pipeline ever fielded by Westport.

Tom Owen returns for his fourth year at Staples girls head coach.

Owen, a Level III PSIAA Certified Ski Instructor based in Okemo, Vt., trains other ski instructors in how to teach skiing.

He has more than 30 years of CISL experience, successfully guiding the Staples ski programs through 10 winning seasons in the nineties. Noteworthy is the 2010 squad will be missing the leadership of Alexandra Vornle, a member of Team Connecticut for the past four years.

While Vornle will be missed, Owen expects this year's 26-girl squad to be highly competitive Owen said, "I like the responsiveness, attitude, energy and optimism of this team. They're very coachable. While it's too early to predict how this relatively-young and unproven squad will be, the potential is unlimited."

The team had pre-season practice sessions at Mohawk Mountain and Okemo (Vt.) in early December, working on free skiing basics. Based on these pre-season practices and time trials, things look promising for both teams.

Three senior captains lead the Wreckers, starting with Paul Lahiff. A fine-tuned USSA-racer, training at Gore Mountain, N.Y., Lahiff was a proven asset during the 2009 season. Senior captains Alec Bernard and Will Hardy contribute their varsity experience as well as Matt Barry.

The seven juniors are led by Andrew Chappo as well as the consistent top-six varsity qualifier Mike Scott. Other returning juniors include Harry Lawrence, Max Stefanie, Ryan Hartmann, Kasper Klein-Ipsen and Bobby Shea.

The eight sophomores include Billy Lahiff and Stephan Thomson as well as Joel Abbott, Dillon Gannon, JJ Mathewson, Kyle Murray, Ryan Lach and Alex Stefani.

There are 16 freshmen on the team, Jake Shore, Pete Smyrnios, Paul Borlin, Alex Ludel, Greg Carl, Noel Berry, Griffin Noyer, Andrew Cohen, Henry Dumke, Max Kurzner, Christopher Tacopina, Edmund Hardy, Peter "Alex" Angus, Alex Ellman, Mathew Levatin and Guerric Vornle.

Sweeney expected to pace Lady Wreckers

The 26-girl squad will be anchored by three senior captains: Olivia Heil, Molly Laux and Katya Strage. All were proven top-six qualifiers during the 2009 season.

The six juniors provide an exceptionally-powerful base, starting with Melissa Sweeney, Staples' top racer and Team Connecticut representative.

USSA-racer Sweeney trains at Thunder Ridge in Pawling, Abigail and Jessica Russ, training at Mt. Sunapee in N.H., are hoping to deliver consistent, top-10 qualifying times last season. Emily Mortner will need to post solid varsity times along Amelia Smith and Morgan Tacopina for the team to be successful.

The six sophomores including returning Lady Wreckers Sara Andros, Gabriella Davey, Caroline Howe and Michele Strage as well as Kumiko Goto and Christie Soule.

The 11 freshmen will be led Julia Kaner and Caroline Corbally along with Courtney Barry, Emily Borner, Jenna Ellis, Haley Garrison, Pernille Klein-Ipsen, Jacqueline Lawrence, Anne-Sofie, Casey Smith and Isabella Watson.

Girls sweep, boys go 3-1 in season opener

Except for one blemish, the Staples boys and girls opened the season with wins on Jan. 7. The Lady Wreckers (336.66) defeated Fairfield (337.72) and Lauralton Hall (355.81).

Sweeney (52.19) led the way and placed third overall in the 60-girl field. Corbally (55.06, 12th), Jessica Russ (56.49, 18th), Abby Russ (57.16, 20th), Howe (57.52, 21st) and Heil (58.24, 22) rounded out the field. Staples boys (328.99) beat Farmington (367.43), Daniel Hand (389.90) and Berlin (381.49) but lost to Fairfield (313.77). Lahiff (51.09, fifth) led the Wreckers in the 95-boy race and was followed by Thomson (54.11, 22nd), Scott (54.72, 31st), Chappo (55.87,38th), Hardy (56.49, 43rd) and Stefani (57.23, 51st).