SEASON RECAP: Injuries Undermine Struggling Squad

Coming off a year in which the alpine squad was forced to enter many early-season contests with no coach at the helm, the only way the Harvard skiing team appeared to be able to go in its 2008-09 campaign was up. But with a rash of injuries and a few team members taking temporary leaves of absence, the Crimson’s results actually worsened this year, as the team’s consistent ninth-place finishes of 2007-08 were replaced with 10th-place efforts this winter.

But despite these poor results, the Harvard skiing team performed much more competitively in comparison to its fellow New England colleges this year. While the season’s first five carnivals were marked with 10th-place efforts, the Crimson’s alpine and nordic squads combined to place ninth at their final competition of the winter, the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association Championship in Sugarloaf, Maine.

The men’s alpine and women’s nordic teams led the way for Harvard this year, often earning the most points for the team at its weekly carnivals throughout New England.

The men’s alpine squad’s performances this winter were especially promising with so many underclassmen stepping up and contributing to the team’s efforts.

“On a whole, I think the team performed well this year, based on our situation,” said men’s alpine junior captain Chris Kinner. “It was a tough season for the freshmen, coming into the big leagues of skiing for the first time, but the sophomore guys had a great year. They really improved in their racing skills and helped the team a great deal.”

The women’s alpine squad faced an especially daunting task this year, with only one active female member competing on a weekly basis.

“With Tess Wood out from competitions with an injury, Caroline McHugh was the only girl competing for us, which meant that no matter how well she skied, she just did not have enough help to improve her team’s finish,” Kinner said.

The alpine squad welcomes five additional team members next winter, with three freshman recruits coming in and another pair of skiers returning from time spent away from the team or school.

This added depth should only help the alpine contingents continue to close the distance between them and other collegiate alpine skiing programs throughout the region.

“Everyone has to step up next year,” Kinner said. “I’d really like our team to get out of ninth place and beat St. Michael’s College on a consistent basis. Getting any higher than eighth place would require a lot of work, but I think we will definitely improve next year with a bigger squad.”

The women’s nordic team, with a mix of talented underclassmen and seasoned veterans, had one of its best years in recent memory. The contingent was the largest of Harvard’s four skiing squads and often placed the highest among the four at weekly carnivals.

“We had a pretty strong girls’ team,” said men’s nordic junior Joe Tofte. “They skied well all year and should continue to place well next year.”

The men’s nordic squad, meanwhile, suffered from a rather small squad size and was not able to match the efforts of its female counterpart.

“We had a small team this year, consisting of only four guys,” Tofte said. “But based on our situation, we actually skied pretty well this year. We have a couple good recruits coming in next year as well, so we should be able to build on our finishes this year.”

Overall, despite Harvard skiing’s presence at the back of the pack among New England collegiate programs this winter, the Crimson looks to improve next year having gained valuable experience throughout the 2008-09 campaign.

—Staff writer Thomas D. Hutchison can be reached at tdhutch@fas.harvard.edu.

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