It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.
There may or may not have been fat ladies present at the NCAA Championships in Montana, but on the last weekend of the skiing season, the Harvard ski team finally broke its ninth-place streak in Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association competition thanks to strong performances by its two top athletes, sophomore alpine skier Rebecca Nadler and junior Nordic skier Alena Tofte.
Nadler’s national title in the giant slalom was, of course, the headliner, but Tofte also posted strong results with a 27th-place finish in the individual start 5k skate and 35th in the 15k classic.
“I thought that this year during the season compared to last year, [Tofte] had a lot of strong, consistent results,” Nadler says. “We never actually got to see her racing in season, but I did catch her race when we were out there [in Montana], and I was impressed.”
“She had less than a day to adjust to the altitude…and she works so incredibly hard,” she adds. “It was awesome to see. I felt really proud to be her teammate.”
The duo, the Crimson’s only skiers at the event, gave Harvard a 15th-place finish overall that was seventh among EISA schools at the NCAAs. The EISA once again made its case as one of the nations more dominant conferences in the country despite competing out west, led by the University of Vermont, which became the first East Coast school to win nationals since Dartmouth in 2007.
“I think it was really great to see an Eastern team win the overall title,” Nadler says. “The West has been a seemingly stronger division. But in the giant slalom, four of the top five individuals were from the East, and the guys did well, too. It’s cool to know that maybe you’re racing against top racers in the country, and it definitely was exciting to see an Eastern school take home the championship.”
Over the course of the season, Harvard saw breakout performances from several other athletes, most notably sophomore Chris Stock, who took fourth in the 1.2k sprint at the UNH Carnival. Junior Esther Kennedy finished 12th in that same event and finished her season with a 17th-place finish in the 5k skate race at the EISA Championships, and freshman Akeo Maifeld-Carucci took 15th at the EISA Championships in the 20k classic mass start, and fellow rookie Cate Kister led the alpine women in the slalom event, taking 16th.
“In terms of the team as a whole, there was a lot of improvement,” Nadler says. “We had some fourth-place and fifth-place finishes on the women’s team, which is good and something we can build on for next year. The men’s team is also improving and working in the right direction.”
These breakout performances were not consistent enough to allow the Crimson to move past the ninth-place pole during the season, especially with the men’s alpine team often set back by injuries and all of the teams boasting relatively small rosters compared to their powerhouse competitors to the north.
But while the team may not have had the depth to go toe-to-toe with the top teams in the region, it did boast two skiers in Nadler and Tofte who could compete with—and, in Nadler’s case, beat —athletes from the strongest schools in the nation.
“I’m excited for our team to keep building and improving,” Nadler says. “I’ve been here for two years, and a lot of times have had conversations where I say I’m on the ski team and the other person says, ‘We have a ski team?’ I hope I’m going to be having that conversation less and less.”
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.