by Tony Blasi Sports Editor
University of Maine Farmington skier Mackenzie MacDonald (Buxton) has been invited to train at the Disabled Sports/USA’s Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colo., Dec. 3-9.
She will train with other aspiring paralympians from around the country, while being coached by some of the nation’s top coaches for adaptive sports. She was also offered a scholarship from the organization to help make participation possible.
Mackenzie is an accomplished student-athlete and a member of the UMF Alpine ski team. Her athletic abilities are made even more remarkable because she skis downhill fast with a sight impairment caused by ocular albinism.
“It is a recessive gene disorder that both my parents carry,” MacKenzie said. “I believe there is a 25 percent chance of a child having this if both the parents are carriers, and that is the only way to get it.
“Right now my vision is the best it will ever be, and it may get worse as I get older, but we won’t really know until it happens.
“Ocular albinism affects the pigmentation in the hair, skin, and eyes, which is why I am very fair skinned and blonde. The rest of my family has dark brown hair. It also affects my eyesight to the extent that I will never be able to drive.”
MacKenzie began her competitive skiing with the Alpine race team at Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation, based at Sunday River in Newry. MacKenzie grew up playing soccer, field hockey, tennis, softball, and track, but skiing showed her that she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to, and that it didn’t matter that other people didn’t think she could do something because she knew she could do it.
“I love the technicality of it,” she said. “There is something that you can always improve on, and working hard is something I’ve always done to be better at things.
“Skiing is just so freeing, and it has shown me so much about myself. It has also made me more confident in other aspects of my life.”
“Her constant search for adventure is contagious and we always look forward to seeing her challenge herself each day,” the Maine Adaptive staff said. “While on snow, she skis with the assistance of a sighted guide who skis in front of her to provide verbal cues about the course and terrain. Staff at Maine Adaptive and UMF Athletics have both contributed to developing her current training program, which includes work in the gym and on the hill.”
Last year was her first as a student at UMF. In February 2018, she won the gold in the visually impaired class in both GS and SL at the Empire State Games in Lake Placid, N.Y.
“I have juggled being an athlete, school, and work since I was a sophomore in high school, so it’s nothing new,” she said. “This last year, in particular, it forced me how to prioritize things correctly so I could be most efficient in getting things done. It has helped me realize what things are most important.”
UMF snowsports director Scott Hoisington is impressed with Mackenzie on several fronts.
“Mackenzie is an asset to our team,” he said. “She trains hard and competes in our USCSA Reynold’s Division events with the rest of the racers, as well as in Maine Adaptive events.
“She is great with her time management, which makes it all possible. Mackenzie has a high level of energy, dedication and optimism. She is an inspiration to her teammates and she can be heard cheering them on as well.
‘We are all very proud of her selection to the Colorado camp and are thrilled that she has this opportunity to continue to learn and test her limits.”