After 322 days since the last time the Harvard alpine skiing team was on competitive snow, the team is back on the slopes.
Key performances from rookies helped the team kick off the season when the alpine skiers made the trek this weekend to Stowe, Vt. to begin its EISA competition at the Vermont Carnival, where the team took 11th place out of 13 teams.
“This is our first trial of the season, and we have a lot of freshmen where this is their first time on the carnival scene,” junior Rebecca Nadler said. ”Our men’s team had their best finish in, I don’t even know how long, and we had two men in the top 30, which was really great for us. There was a lot of soft snow, so there were a lot of big bumps and big gusts, but everyone did a really good job battling it out and working hard to get some finishes in.”
Nadler, who raced to a first-ever NCAA title for the Crimson last year and helped her team take ninth at the EISA championships as a sophomore, highlighted the women’s side of the competition for Harvard, coming in second in her first race of the giant slalom event. But tricky conditions led to a tougher second run, yielding an 11th-place overall finish for the junior in the event.
“[Her race] was difficult because the snow was pretty soft, and it deteriorated a lot in the second run, and that was obviously a little bit of a bummer,” Harvard coach Tim Mitchell said.
Nadler also spearheaded Harvard’s effort on the second day in the slalom race, finishing in the 14th spot out of over 80 skiers. But even with a title under Nadler’s belt and some early success, Mitchell doesn’t see anything as a given for the junior’s season.
“She put down a really good time, a second-place run in the first race of the season, so that was good, but the consistency right now is not quite there from her yet,” Mitchell said. “Once she gets on track, she’ll be right where she was last year. She’s prepared very well, but you can’t control how anybody races. [There are skiers] from UVM and Dartmouth that are phenomenal, way above the level that they skied at last year, so Rebecca’s definitely capable of having the year that she had last year, but you can only control your own results.”
Senior Catherine Sheils came in 39th in the giant slalom event and earned NCAA points with her 24th-place finish in the slalom race. Also contributing were sophomore Liz Strong, who took 50th in the giant slalom, and freshman Samantha Udolf, who skied to a 43rd-place finish in the slalom.
“[Udolf’s] racing at a completely different level than she’s ever been exposed to, so it’s not just one step up in the competition level for her, it’s three or four steps up, so we weren’t necessarily knowing what to expect of her,” Mitchell said. “She was maybe a little bit overwhelmed, which is very easy to do since you’re racing against some people who are competing on the World Cup circuit as well as racing for their coach. It’s about the highest level of competition that you can get in any college sport, so it’s a pretty tall act for someone like her to step up.”
Freshmen performances paved the way on the men’s side, where freshman Matthew Mansson qualified for a second run and placed 41st in the grand slalom, while in the slalom event, freshman Simon Merryweather and junior Ian Anderson cracked the top 30, placing 20th and 24th respectively, to earn points towards their NCAA totals. Merryweather’s finish was particularly impressive considering he started in the 76th position in the second race after a slower first run.
“That’s a huge, huge move as a freshman—first collegiate race. We were really excited to see that,” Mitchell said. “Ian Anderson also finished inside the top 30, and that’s really important because when you’re finishing inside the top 30, you’re scoring points, not only for the team result, but for your own individual standing within the league, which affects your start position. That’s really important, because the later back you start, the course is kind of chewed up and bumpy and runny.”
While some of the individual results weren’t necessarily what Mitchell was hoping for, he attributes some of them to the rust that comes with a late start in training that the Crimson had in comparison to UVM, which had a commanding win at the carnival with 422 points.
“We’re going up against teams like UVM, which have basically been training and racing since the middle of November, and they went up to Colorado for a couple of weeks in November, and then up to Canada and skied there some more,” Mitchell said. “They’ve been going for a month and a half nonstop, so we’re definitely playing catch-up right now, and it’s pretty apparent. That being said, I actually think, given the amount of skiing we had, we’re ahead of where I expected us to be at this point.”
--Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org