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In a sport characterized by its downhill slopes, Harvard’s skiing season has been anything but downhill. The Crimson’s performance in the five races so far has shown great potential, not only for the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) regional carnival coming up this weekend but also for the NCAA Skiing Championships to be held in March at Lake Placid, N.Y..
In the five races so far, Harvard’s Nordic and Alpine teams have always finished in the top six, prompting first-year Alpine skier Fredrik Willumsen Haug to claim, “this season has actually been the best season for Harvard skiing ever.”
Willumsen Haug made history during his racing debut for Harvard in the season-opener at the Bates Carnival, becoming the first Harvard Alpine racer in eight years to be on the podium in the grand slalom event at a regular season carnival.
“The first race when I got the podium, that was great,” Willumsen Haug recounted. “That was completely unexpected and also really fun.”
This individual initial success was a sign of the great season that was about to come. Several Nordic team skiers scored career-high results at the next carnival at St. Michael’s College.
In addition to successful outings at the University of New Hampshire and Williams Carnivals, the best indicator of the skiing team’s great season was the Harvard Carnival, hosted by the University on Feb. 10 and 11. It was a show of force by the Crimson who finished fifth out of the 13 teams.
On the Nordic team’s side, senior Rémi Drolet, who took a leave of absence from Harvard to represent Canada at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in cross-country skiing, finished first in the men's 10 km individual start freestyle race. The Alpine team also fared well, with Willumsen Haug and senior co-captain Jack Despres finishing in the top ten in giant slalom.
These wins have moved Harvard’s ski teams into fifth place in the EISA circuit before the final regular season race this weekend.
According to Willumsen Haug, the Harvard skiing teams’ success can be explained by hard work and excellent team spirit. Given that skiing is a winter sport, training during the fall semester consists of strength and conditioning. However, during the extremely short ski season where “there is a very small margin for error and not much predictability,” Willumsen Haug explained that the teams have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. every day to train in mountain ranges, located three hours away from campus, in sessions that conclude by noon so that skiers can attend afternoon classes.
Willumsen Haug also felt that a great and inclusive team culture helped propel the team to its success. He explained that upperclassmen have been “really great teammates and role models, helping me incorporate and get values, ski well, and be a good person.”
Coming from Norway, he was grateful to the team for helping him achieve a flawless and very pleasant transition, crediting his co-captains and “great leaders” on the team for “doing a great job on keeping the team together and making sure everyone is doing the right thing.”
There is a sense of optimism about the future of this team — not only for the NCAA tournament but also for next season. Even though he has already qualified for the final tournament, Willumsen Haug believes that, with a great performance this weekend, there will be more Harvard skiers at Lake Placid this March.
“I think it is going to be a great team next year, like this year but with even more improvements and the coach doing his magic,” Willumsen Haug reflected.
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