A look at the alpine ski team

The first impression I got of the Williams alpine ski team when I stood shivering at the finish line of Moogano’s Giant Slalom course Sunday, aside from a sort of inquisitive wonder at whether or not they enjoyed squeezing into their black and magenta racing tights, was, “wow… they really are fast.”

This awakening came not from the rapidity with which they fled from me in eager anticipation of the post-carnival festivities on the second floor of a lodge at the Jiminy Peak Ski “Resort”; nor did it come from the speed with which they poured down their post-race beverages; not even the rate at which Liz Hamachek ‘01 and Katherine Lange ‘01 stripped off their outer layers before bombing down the slalom course clad only in sports bras and boxers in front of hundreds of eager spectators earned the team such an illustrious description as “fast”.

In fact, it was the team’s skiing abilities, developed over years of practice on various mountains across America and tuned for the season through months of hard work.

The Williams alpine ski team began formal training for the 1998 season by taking a week out of their Christmas break to journey to Sunday River in Maine.

In this serene mountain setting they proceeded to make football’s preseason look like a Williams Summer Carnival as they endured double-sessions all week, practicing from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. everyday with only a short lunch break in the middle.

Coach Ed Grees so fully dominated the skiers’ time with training sessions that members had to sneak out of ski tuning sessions at night in order to catch up on their beverage consumption.

Having survived Sunday River, the team returned to school where it skied six days a week throughout Winter Study. Monday through Thursday the Ephs practiced from 8:00 a.m. to noon; Thursday nights they piled into vans and drove to distant Motel 6s where they would stay for the Friday and Saturday races.

“This isn’t the basketball or football team. These guys (and gals) work hard six days a week for at least four hours a day!” remarked a small friend of John Cavanaugh ‘99.

The team competed in four VARA races, non-collegiate regional races, during the first three weeks of the season. Each of the men — John Cavanaugh,Justin Yarmark ‘99, Dan Newhall ‘01, Kyle Goodrich ‘01, and Bunge Cook ‘98 consistently finished among the top ten individuals in either the Slalom or Giant Slaloms at the competitions. The team began competing in the college circuit on the third weekend of January. The circuit consists of 12 Division One teams from New England, each of which hosts a carnival similar to Moogano to which the other schools travel in hopes of claiming cold victory.

The women’s team — Gabrielle Thiele ‘00, Marina Gisquet ‘99, Marie-Michelle Tassé ‘00, Darah Schofield ‘01, Liz Hamachek, Asia Magriby ‘98, Alison Furey ‘99, Becky Young ‘00, Katherine Lange, and Jaime Williams ‘01— has finished close to fourth or fifth place at most of the collegiate competitions; the men’s team has floated between fourth and sixth.

The large time commitment and intense training that being atop the Division One skiing world demands has cost many of the Ephs on and off the slopes. Jaime Williams blew out her knee at the UVM carnival over dead week; she will not ski for the rest of the season. Former captains Justin Yarmarck and Asia Magriby quit the team just before Winter Carnival, two more casualties of the fierce Williams ski team work ethic.

On perhaps an even more tragic note, the team did not have time to prepare a party for the visiting schools after the races on Saturday because the skiers were too busy training and dealing with the loss of their captains to focus on anything other than skiing.

The team’s efforts have resulted in impressive combined and individual standings in the races throughout the season and in a successful Winter Carnival at Jiminy last weekend. “One year the races were canceled because of weather. Another year the timer broke.

Except for the hard snow and cold weather, everything went off rather smoothly at Moogano,” said one skier. Much of the credit for the alpine events goes to head coach Ed Grees and to the assistant coach, known to the skiers as Terry.

Unfortunately, most of Williams would not understand the exhilaration of witnessing agile Ephs carving down an icy slope at 60 mph — the mountain looked somewhat crowded at first glance this weekend, but deeper inspection would reveal that most people there were either working or racing. “The team was really excited for the weekend, but we wished there were more people there.

Most of the people in the crowd were parents or close friends of the racers,” said Darah Schofield, a standout frosh racer. The hard work, commitment and unity of the alpine ski team has more than filled the void that the lack of fans created.