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The alpine skiing hierarchy is a system that reinforces itself. Because start orders are determined by previous finishes, those stuck on lower rungs of the ladder compete when course conditions are at their worst.
All season long, Harvard skiers have been among the last to start in the collegiate fleet, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the Crimson has often had trouble moving up in the rankings.
The status quo held for Harvard at the University of Vermont’s Winter Carnival in Stowe, Vt., as the Crimson placed ninth for the third time this winter.
Harvard finished behind Bates College and ahead of St. Michael’s. Meanwhile the Catamounts won their third carnival of the year, solidifying their place as the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association’s top squad.
But in the slalom, sophomore Catherine Sheils was undeterred by her starting position. Sheils fought her way through the rough course conditions for a sixth-place finish, the best result of her career and one of the best finishes the alpine team has seen in recent history.
“It was a difficult day because the snow was pretty soft,” alpine coach Tim Mitchell said. “She started 26th...she just survived the first run. She had the third best second run. She got really charged. She had a very good tactical run...she has a lot of speed. It’s about limiting her mistakes.”
The alpine team’s most consistent finisher of the weekend was Caroline McHugh. The junior took 29th in the giant slalom and 21st in the slalom.
“I was really really happy with Caroline McHugh,” Mitchell said. “That [slalom] is definitely her best college run.”
The women’s alpine team will get a boost next weekend when freshman Rebecca Nadler returns to the lineup. Nadler was in Turkey competing in the World University Games, where she placed 21st in the slalom.
Freshman Ian Anderson was the team’s top finisher in the giant slalom with a 46th place finisher, while captain Alec Boardman paced the squad in a slalom with a 34th place finish.
“It’s been a season marked by inconsistency,” Mitchell said. “The speed is there, just a lack of consistency.”
On the Nordic side, sophomore Alena Tofte had another strong weekend. Tofte opened the weekend with a 30th place finish in the 15k classic but rallied to take ninth in the 5k free race.
“I think on Friday I was kind of wiped out,” the sophomore said. “I didn’t feel as good. I think I got a good night’s sleep [on Friday night]. I started 15 seconds in front of a girl I had raced before. She caught me, and then I skied with her and got to work to wish her and ended up up passing her.”
Captain Cara Sprague was the team’s top finisher in the 15k classic race.
“She just kept moving right up,” Tofte said. “She looked very strong, and I think she was very happy with it.”
Meanwhile, rookie Jen Rolfes was able to carry her momentum from last weekend’s sixth-place finishes into the collegiate circuit. Rolfes finished 29th in the skate race on Saturday.
Freshman Chris Stock was the team’s top finisher on the men’s side in both races. Stock finished 20th in Friday’s 20k classic race and 31st in the 10k free race.
Next up for the Crimson in both events was Tony Ryerson. The sophomore took 35th in Friday’s race and 44th on Saturday. Rookie Tanner Wiegand was right behind Ryerson in the 20k, placing 37th.
“For Chris Stock and Tanner Wiegand, it was their first 20k collegiate race,” City said. “You never know what you’re going to get. It’s longer than they’re used to racing. For Chris to come in 20th is pretty great.”
“Tanner was not too far behind,” City added. “He skied a really nice race. He paced himself and was passing people at the end.”
“I think the boys had a great day on Friday,” Tofte said. “On Saturday, they looked a little flat, but they held right in there and had a good day.”
Tofte thought the team benefited from the weekend break in the college carnival circuit.
“I think it helps everyone out to have a little break,” Tofte said. “It’s great to be back into it.”
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at email@example.com.
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