As senior Becca Nadler waited at the starting line of Wednesday’s Grand Slalom event at the NCAA Skiing Championships, the captain knew she had a lot to live up to.
Nadler became the first Harvard skier to win a national championship in 2012, and while injuries prevented a full performance in last year’s competition, she had nothing to hold back this time around.
“I was hoping to cross the finish line with nothing left, knowing that I gave it my all, and I think I did that,” said Nadler, who placed sixth in this year’s race. “It’s always fun competing at NCAA’s, just being surrounded by such talented athletes. People are always impressed and surprised to see a Harvard athlete, especially on the ski team, competing at that level. It’s fun to raise some eyebrows, and it’s fun to represent Harvard.”
While the senior left it all on the course in her final race representing Harvard, Nadler’s future plans involve moving to Vermont to continue racing at Burke Mountain Academy.
“I’m going to keep racing next year, so at least the dream isn’t over. or I’d be a total mess,” Nadler said. “This last race was pretty fun. I definitely had the butterflies, but I love the feeling of that nervous energy I have before a run…. I didn’t feel any negative pressure being out here. I just do what I’m capable of and hope that when it counts, I ski the way I know that I can.”
The Alpine skier competed in Park City, Utah along with Nordic skier seniors Jen Rolfes and Chris Stock as well as junior Akeo Maifeld-Carucci, whose combined races helped the Crimson secure 14th place out of 23 teams overall.
Rolfes raced in Thursday’s 5k classic and Saturday’s 15k freestyle, placing 17th and 23rd, respectively.
Although Rolfes worried about the challenges posed with skiing at higher altitude, the Crimson skiers offered one another support and advice.
“Once I thought through the strategies [Akeo suggested], it became a little easier to think about goals,” Rolfes explained. “Normally when we race out east, we’ll go pretty hard on the uphills, hoping to recover on the downhills. What happens at altitude is you don’t recover on the downhill, so you have to pace yourself or you won’t be able to ski fast at the end.”
Rolfes’ teammates also mentioned the support the captain has reciprocated since her freshman year.
“She led the team this fall in dedication to training, in focus on getting the workouts in,” Stock said. “Her success this winter has been remarkable. She’s been really inspiring this year for me and for the rest of the team, as far as setting a standard for excellence and an example of how to be a skier.”
Stock and Maifeld-Carucci raced in Thursday’s 10k classic and Saturday’s 20k freestyle, faring well on the men’s side.
Stock placed 31st and 38th, respectively, in the two races.
“I didn’t have specific goals here—for me, the main goal of the season was qualifying for NCAA’s,” Stock said. “I qualified in the last spot. I knew that a lot of the skiers that we meet up against here come from the Western Conference. They come from very established programs. I was really excited to have the opportunity to be skiing just in the same race as them.”
Although only one junior among the four Crimson skiers qualified, Stock recognized the progress that the Harvard teams have made in recent years, and looks to the underclassmen to maintain the improvement.
“Akeo had a breakout season this year,” Stock said. “We’ve actually been able to put together some really strong team results, which is the first time we’ve been able to do that. [Placing] third in the relay race at the Williams Carnival [on Feb. 14-15] was huge because there are some other colleges [competing there] that have established programs. We were just able to put it together and show them that there’s nothing stopping the Harvard team from doing just as well.”
Along with Stock, Nadler won’t be leading the Crimson next year. But she hopes to teach her teammates the possibilities that exixt despite skiing on the East coast.
“Even if the odds are against you, and even if it’s unconventional to be on a ski team in Boston, if the passion is there, if the work ethic and desire are there, then anything is possible,” Nadler said. “I never would have thought that I could achieve the results that I did, but if the skiers on the Harvard ski team are working just as hard as on any other team, they can do pretty well.”
—Staff writer Orlea L. Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.