Depending on how you look at it, the Harvard ski team’s 2010-2011 season was either mediocre or wildly successful.
On the one hand, the Crimson was unable to improve its team results from last year, earning ninth-place finishes every single weekend in the regular season. But from an individual standpoint, Harvard’s season was the best it has ever been, as the team sent three skiers—the most in program history—to the NCAA Championships this winter.
Freshman Rebecca Nadler and sophomore Catherine Sheils became the first alpine skiers from the Crimson ever to go to NCAAs, while sophomore Alena Tofte became the first Nordic skier to qualify since 2004.
“I think we were all proud,” Nadler said. “It was really great to be able to all go together [and] have that support.”
The three took different paths to their NCAA qualifications. Nadler posted outstanding results at the beginning of the season that guaranteed a spot in the postseason before the season had hit its midpoint. Sheils improved throughout the year and hit her stride just in time for the season’s biggest races.
At the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association Championships, Sheils 14th place finish was the best of any Harvard skiers, which was especially impressive given that she is usually stronger in the giant slalom. She also placed 22nd in the giant slalom.
“I think Catherine kind of surprised herself,” Tofte said. “For me, [it was] kind of the same, I guess.”
Tofte posted consistently strong results throughout the season. Some of her highlights included an eighth-place finish in the 10k Classic race at the Colby Carnival and a second-place finish in the 5k race at the TD Bank Eastern Cup at Weston Golf Course. Tofte was in third place for much of the race but sprinted past former Olympic gold medalist Nina Gavrilyuk to take second.
“I was excited that I started doing well,” Tofte said. “It ended up being a really, really fun time.”
At the NCAAs, Nadler’s 20th in the slalom topped all Crimson skiers at NCAAs. Tofte earned a 31st-place finish in the 5k free race while Sheils earned 28th in the slalom.
The trio’s finishes gave Harvard a 17th-place finish at NCAAs, which was still ninth among Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) schools.
The EISA showed itself to be the strongest conference in the country as four schools finished in the top 10, including Dartmouth, which took third place.
Freshmen Nordic skiers Jen Rolfes and Chris Stock qualified for a different kind of postseason—the Junior Olympics—and boasted strong performances throughout the year.
At the TD Bank Eastern Cup races, the season’s fourth event, both Rolfes and Stock stood out. Stock earned third place in the 1.5k sprint while Rolfes placed sixth in both the sprint and in the afternoon 5k race.
The pair of rookies also led the charge in two events at the EISA championships, with Rolfe’s 21st place pacing the Crimson in the 5k freestyle race and Stock’s 31st leading the charge in men’s 10k freestyle race. Stock went on to take third in the 15k classic mass start at the Junior Olympics while Rolfes took sixth in the classic mass start race.
Both skiers are expected to make a big impact on the team in the years to come.
“They both improved a ton and did extremely extremely well at the Junior Olympics,” Tofte said. “They’re both very, very strong athletes...They ski technically well, and they have great work ethics.”
Despite Harvard’s consistent ninth-place finishes, for several members of the team, the 2010-2011 season was one to remember.
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.