The fastest team picked the slowest creature.
Reese Furneaux would not have it any other way. She wanted the eggs.
Furneaux of Bethel took on the task of making fleece headbands for 96 members of Maine’s Eastern High School and U16 championship ski teams.
The two teams competed over two March weekends against teams from Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and the Midwest.
What started out as the Maine team colors of blue, yellow and white turned into 24 designs of sparkly gold, tie-dye blends, fried eggs and snails, as well as others.
“They are all really sparkly and very bright colors,” the 15-year-old said about the headbands she makes.
Furneaux is a freshman at Gould Academy, where she competes for the school’s Nordic ski team. After she earned her way onto both the U16 and the EHSC teams, her Gould coach asked if she would sew a series of headbands for each of Maine’s 24 four-person relay teams.
Each relay team consists of two girls and two boys. One individual from each of the 24 teams would ski a loop and come back to the tag zone and release the next teammate to then do the same.
Since each of Maine’s 96 athletes wear the same blue, yellow and white uniform, a sparkly, brightly colored headband would help the athletes know who was on their particular relay team.
Emma Charles of Mt. Blue High School was on the Maine “A” EHSC team. She picked the light blue fleece with pink and yellow snails. Furneaux’s relay team picked sparkly blue. Alex Hemingway’s team scored the fried eggs. He skis for Mt. Abram High School near Kingfield.
“I sewed a gold star on mine because I like doing fun things,” Furneaux said about the hot pink headband that she wore the week before during the U16 championship relay race in Jackson, New Hampshire. Two days of EHSC ski races were in Farmington.
“Sal and I were blown away that someone wanted to do headbands for the relay teams, even more so that it was an athlete,” said Buzz Bean, who coaches the Maine EHSC team alongside his wife, Sally. “Reese stepped up on her own and made really cool headbands with glitter, which is very important in Nordic skiing.”
Many high school and middle school teams have the tradition of decorating their teammates faces with glitter before races.
“It seemed like it would be great for team spirit,” Furneaux said about the idea of sewing unique designs for each relay team. “It makes me feel happy to see people wearing my neckies and head bands.”
Neckies are how it all started.
This was Furneaux’s first year Nordic ski racing. Before that, she was an alpine ski racer. Fellow racers admired the sparkly fleece neck warmers that Furneaux had been wearing to the races and offered to pay money if Furneaux made one for them.
Fleece by Reese was born. “From there, it was a lot of trial and error,” said Reese.
The demand of schoolwork and athletics has slowed the fun fleece projects a bit. “As I got older, I had to slow down because Gould is so demanding,” said Furneaux.
“Gould has played a huge part of my life and has given me so many opportunities. I never thought I would have coaches that would be like family,” Furneaux said about her school in Bethel. Her younger brother, Jack, attends Gould as well.
Furneaux competes on the Gould road, mountain bike and gravel bike teams in addition to the ski team. “I’m good on a bike and on skis and that’s about it,” Furneaux said of her athletic ability. Furneaux admits that technique is not her strength, but grit is. “My biggest strength is I don’t mind being in a lot of pain,” which is an advantage when competing in endurance sports such as cycling and Nordic skiing.
Technique shines through when Furneaux sits at her sewing machine, the same one that her mom, Maggie, learned to sew on when she was 8 years old. “My mom and my grandmother taught me how to sew,” said Furneaux.
Furneaux and her mother often make the hour-long trip to Auburn to buy fleece in bulk from JoAnn Fabrics. “It’s a family affair. I don’t do it alone,” Furneaux said.
Members of the Maine ski teams asked Furneaux if she was paid for the 96 headbands she made. “No, I just donated them. I’m not a very good business person,” Furneaux said. She even left off the Fleece by Reese tag since she was already behind on time to get them finished. “I was continuously working for a week to get them done. Sewing the tags on would have been an extra step.”
“It was a lot of fun to make people happy, even though it was a lot of work.”
Large orders are nothing new for Furneaux.
As a way to give back to her school, Furneaux raised money through Fleece by Reese for the Gould Fund during Giving Tuesday, a day each year when donations are made to support Gould programs.
“Instead of having my parents give to Gould, I wanted to,” said Furneaux, who raised more than $2,000 for the Gould Fund in one week by making and selling neck warmers.
Furneaux said she hopes to continue making headbands for the Maine ski teams her sophomore, junior and senior years.
“I hope to do it all the years that I can,” said Furneaux. “It’s fun. Besides, it’s really cool if you’re the fast team wearing the snail headbands.”
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