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Usual Ninth-Place Finish at Middlebury

By Taryn I. Kurcz, Contributing Writer

From improved personal bests to strong team performances to falling off cliffs, Harvard skiing had an eventful weekend in Middlebury, Vt. The Crimson finished yet again in ninth place out of 12 schools with 410 points in the Middlebury College Winter Classic.

Fellow Ivy League school Dartmouth finished first. The two-time defending EISA champion Big Green won its first carnival of 2011 after finishing behind the University of Vermont in the previous contests.

Snow conditions were tough on Friday, with the snow being extra soft.

“The snow broke through and got a little bit ruddy and bumpy” said alpine coach Tim Mitchell.

To try to improve the conditions, officials put salt on the snow over night, making the ride down the mountain much smoother. But squalls on the other side of the mountain made the visibility very challenging, testing all of the skiers’ ability to cope with the adverse conditions.

The Harvard women’s ski team held up well this weekend, having solid performances in both the relay and individual events. The three-woman team of freshman Jen Rolfes, sophomore Esther Kennedy, and sophomore Alena Tofte finished an impressive sixth place in the sprint relay. Unlike races that usually start with a mass start or individual start, the relay race in Middlebury this past weekend had a special format. Each member of the relay team skied one kilometer, three separate times, trading off the relay handoffs in between each leg.

“The relays were a lot of fun. It was really cool to have a different format, and it was a fun, spectator-friendly course,” Tofte said.

Tofte also finished an impressive 15th place in the Nordic skiing downhill, with teammate Kennedy following behind her in 29th place.

“I think I started off a little too fast,” Tofte said about her individual race. “So I got to push myself. I think I had a pretty cool race.”

On the men’s side, sophomore Anthony Ryerson finished in the best position for the Crimson in 27th place.

In alpine skiing, both the men’s and women’s teams pulled out good performances. Sophomore Catherine Sheils landed in 11th place in the slalom, and junior Caroline McHugh finished 24th place in the same event. Sheils also had a career-best 13th place in the giant slalom.

“[Thirteenth place] is an outstanding result for her and is by far her best giant slalom result ever, so that was really great,” Mitchell said. “It’s an opportune part of the year to start to put it all together, so that was fantastic for her.”

Junior Kevin McNamara finished as a top performer for the men’s team, ending up in 27th place in the slalom and 31st place in the giant slalom, despite competing when the courses were at their worst.

He started 63rd and 71st in the slalom and giant slalom, respectively.

“He improved his start position more than anybody else that day,” Mitchell said. “Putting two solid runs together, two days in a row, I would say is a huge accomplishment for him. He definitely scored more team points this weekend than he has in his three years at Harvard, so that was really good to see from him.”

While many members of the Harvard squad finished well at the Middlebury Carnival, one skier had a more painful weekend. On one of her free runs between slalom races, freshman Rebecca Nadler took an unfortunate fall over an unmarked cliff.

“When I landed I was ejected from my skis and did a few somersaults,” Nadler said. “I’m totally fine. I just have a bit of a sore back, and I scratched my face up a little bit…It could have been a lot worse.”

And indeed it could have been. Nadler had already qualified for NCAA Nationals, so she has a different goal for the EISA Championships this upcoming weekend.

“It would be awesome to get on that podium, but I’d really like to get some solid runs in just to get my confidence again and not hold back,” Nadler said.

While Nadler will be skiing to get her confidence back, the rest of the team will be looking to qualify for NCAA Nationals in their final regular season races of the season.

Mitchell feels confident in Harvard’s ski team after this weekend’s result.

“People really started to piece it together,” Mitchell said. “Also, this weekend’s races are at Sunday River, which is a facility we’ve trained extensively at this year and over the last few years. So, all the athletes feel very comfortable there and are comfortable with the hill. The kids seem to ski pretty well on that hill, so I’m pretty hopeful.”

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