Despite graduating 10 seniors, the Staples girls and boys ski teams are pointing to another winning year for both squads. The biggest loss for either squad was All-Stater Paul Lahiff, who skied for Team Connecticut the past two years.

Already the squads have been bolstered by on-snow and dryland training and the addition of new boys coach, Courtney Ruggiero, who took over for Jon Shepro. Shepro stepped down to focus on his duties as volleyball coach. The two squads now number 59 girls and boys who are focused on developing and/or improving their racing techniques.

Based on these pre-season practices and the depth of experienced racers, Staples can dominate Connecticut Interscholastic Ski League championships this year and again qualify for the State Championships in March.

Ruggiero plans to continue the boys recent successes of qualifying for and placing well at the State Championships for the past four years. Ruggiero has an exceptionally deep alpine racing and coaching background including attending Okemo Mountain School as a freshman and sophomore and later successfully competing for Bates College in Lewistown, Maine. She later was an assistant coach for Brown, in Providence, R.I and has coached Okemo, Vermont's Developmental Team for seventh through 12th graders. Ruggiero currently teaches social studies at Bedford Middle School.

Tom Owen returns for his fourth year as the girls team head coach. Owen, a Level III PSIAA Certified Ski Instructor based in Okemo, Vt., is the instructor to other ski instructors in the Northeast. The Staples Special Education Teacher has 30 years of CISL experience, successfully guiding the Staples ski programs through 10 winning seasons in the 1990s.

Owen expects this year's 28-girl squad will include fast, fast, fast USSA-trained racers, supplemented with potentially-talented underclassmen.

He said, "I'll be surprised if we don't improve on last season's 12-3 record. On paper, this is possibly the deepest and fastest team we've ever had. It's our job to maximize this team's potential , by keeping them focused. The real test will come at the end of the season.

Our goal this year is to win the State Championships."

Tri-captains Kasper Klein-Ipsen, Harry Lawrence and Mike Scott lead the 31-boy squad. Standouts include Scott who consistently posted top-three varsity times and the explosively, talented Killington-trained Andrew Chappo, along with Ryan Hartman,

Bobby Shea and Max Stefani

The nine juniors include Gore Mountain-trained Billy Lahiff and varsity stand-out Stephan Thomson as well as Joel Abbott, Dillon Gannon, Sam Grosso, JJ Mathewson, Kyle Murray, Ryan Lach, Alex Stefani. Expect sophomore Guerric Vornle to excel among the 12 sophomores who include Peter Angus, Noel Berry, Paul Bowlin, Gregory Carl, Henry Dumke, Alexander Ellman, Matthew, Brad Payne, Jacob Shore and Pete Smyrnios. The ten freshmen are Roscoe Brown, Craig Gelman, Michael Gifford, Aaron Greenspun, Timothy Lahiff, William Nolan and Jack Scott.

The 28-girl squad has three senior tri-captains led by senior Melissa Sweeney, who skied for Team Connecticut the past three years and has historically raced to a top-five finish in this elite group.

Sweeney was Staples' top racer during the 2010 season. Referring to Sweeney, Owen said, "She is an excellent role model

who also has coached the competitive Developmental Racing Team at Okemo.

Senior captains Jessica and Abigail Russ, who train at Mt. Sunapee in N.H., will provide extensive varsity experience. Senior Amy Smith will also be competing in the racing program.

The seven-junior slate is headlined by Kathyrn Collins, who placed second at the State Championships last year, Michele Strage, Staples' No. 3 racer last season and Caroline Howe who trains at Queechee Lake, Vt. They're joined by Sara Andros, Meghan Donovan, Kumiko Golo and Christie Soule.

Returning sophomore Caroline Corbally, a top-three Staples finisher and Pernille Klein-Ipsen, who delivered strong results in latter part of the 2010 season, will lead the 11 sophomores who also include Emily Borner, Elizabeth Cope, Jessica Felton, Haley Garrison, Julia Kaner, Jacqueline Lawrence, Casey Smith, Alexandra Sonsino and Abigail Zimmerman.

Early standouts among the seven freshmen are Pico, (Vt.) --trained Haley Hopkinson, Alison Thomson from Queechee Lake and Caitlin Hartmann who races at Okemo.