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Youth Propels Harvard Skiing

By Christina C. Mcclintock, Crimson Staff Writer

Christmas decorations and cold weather have come to Cambridge, but as it has yet to snow, the Harvard alpine and Nordic ski teams travelled to whiter pastures over Thanksgiving break. The alpine squad headed to Colorado, while the Nordic team travelled north to Quebec, where they competed in the USCan Cup at Forêt Montmorency.

And while most students were sitting on their couches watching football, some of the Crimson’s youngest skiers proved themselves among the best in the East.

Leading the charge was rookie Chris Stock, who had a strong showing at the two-nation event, nearly winning the 1k Classic event in his first weekend of collegiate racing. Peter Hegman, a sophomore from the University of Vermont, edged out Stock for the win by a tenth of a second. Stock placed 12th in his other event.

The high finish by the Harvard skier may have been surprising to the Crimson’s EISA opponents, but according to Nordic coach Chris City ’94, Stock demonstrated potential all fall when the team trained on roller skis.

“The first time we ran [our time trial] this fall, he broke the course record,” City said.

Sophomore Alena Tofte gave the women’s squad a second-place finish of its own with her performance in the 1k Classic event. Tofte and Natalie Ruppertsberger, a senior at Bates, tied for second behind Vermont junior Caitlin Patterson.

“She did some really good training,” City said. “She put in a lot of hours. She has a lot strength she didn’t have last year...We’ve been seeing that in the fall.”

“[This weekend was] a confidence builder for her—to see the work she did is translating. I think that’s encouraged her going into the season. We’ve got good hopes for her this season,” he added.

Meanwhile, the women’s Nordic squad may have found a new star in rookie Jen Rolfes. The Edina, Minn. native placed sixth in the 4k Free event and was fourth among U.S. skiers. An All-American in 2008, Rolfes was Harvard’s second-best finisher in the 1k Classic event, placing 13th.

“She came in with a pretty strong high school racing background,” City said. “She skied well in the sprint on Saturday. She’s a talented racer. We see things from her racing that we don’t see in practice. She’s got this extra gear that we see when she’s racing.”

Rolfes and Stock are part of a core of underclassmen that will play a big role in the team’s success this year.

“We’ve been lucky with the incoming classes,” City said. “It’s been a group of athletes that have come in with a higher level of preparation and have come out of strong athletic programs. They come out with a level of experience that we haven’t had in the past.”

According to City, the rookies’ fitness has allowed the team to train harder than it has in the past.

“What we’re doing now is harder and more challenging than the work we were doing a year ago and much harder than the work we were doing two or three years ago, and that’s because this is a group that came in not only prepared but also eager. Every time we throw a challenge at them, they come back for more.”

While it didn’t have the opportunity to test its mettle in racing this past weekend, the alpine team also saw promise from its younger classes in last year’s season, when then-rookie Catherine Sheils placed eighth at the EISA championships, and in the fall.

This year the team welcomes freshman Rebecca Nadler. The 2010 Eastern Cup Overall Champion, Nadler could find similar success.

“She has a lot of experience in races that are of a similar caliber to college races,” Sheils said. “I think she’s going to be a really great addition to the team.”

With its rookie class ready to go and its veterans returning in top shape, the ski team is ready to outperform its competition this winter.

—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at ccmcclin@fas.harvard.edu.

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