Ski team finishes 14th at NCAA Champ.

The ski team competed at the NCAA Div. I championships, which were hosted by Dartmouth College on March 5-9. Going up against such powerhouses as the Universities of Utah, Colorado and Vermont, the Ephs hoped to put in a strong showing, improving on their 12th place finish last year in Anchorage, Alaska. The Ephs had a total of six skiers qualify for the championships, half of the maximum quota of 12, which made team scoring a bit of a challenge as the team finished in 14th place.

The first day of racing featured the 5-kilometer freestyle Nordic event, with Williams represented by Melody Scheefer ’03 and Elise Henson ’06. Henson finished 24th in 14:41.3, while Scheefer was 34th in 15:12.7. The University of Utah’s Katrin Smigun, who has previously competed at the Olympic and World Cup level, won the race with a time of 13:29.7.

Day two saw a shift to the alpine venue, with four Ephs competing in the Giant Slalom. On the men’s side, Chris Frank ’05 finished 16th, 2:02.63, and Mark Heinrich-Wallace ’04 finished 29th, 2:07.00, in a race won by Ben Thornhill of the University of Utah. “Frank probably had his best first run ever,” Head Alpine Coach Ed Grees said after the race. “This is truly Div. I athletics; many of the people we face are former World Cup and Europa Cup athletes. The idea is to finish ahead of where you were seeded. Chris moved up from 24th to 16th. He was the second U.S. junior in the race. Mark had an off-day and I expect we’ll see some great things from him in the slalom.” Grees’ words about Heinrich-Wallace would later prove true.

The women’s race saw Williams claim the first of two All-American for the weekend as Cecily Lowenthal ’06 skied to a 10th place finish in 2:11.42. Addie Robinson ’05 was close behind, finishing 15th with a time of 2:12.03. Jamie Kingsbury of the University of Vermont won the race finishing in 2:06.71.

The third day of racing returned to the Nordic events, featuring the women’s 15-kilometer classical event on an exceptionally tough, hilly course. The Eph women rose to the challenge, with Scheefer finishing in 23rd place and Henson in 26th only 10 seconds behind. Smigun of Utah again won, capping off an incredible undefeated season in NCAA competition.

The final competition was the slalom, on a warm, sunny day at the Dartmouth Skiway that saw many competitors – especially in the men’s race – ski off course, forcing them to hike back up to the gates they had missed. The Williams women skied solidly again, with Robinson and Lowenthal finishing 18th and 24th respectively. Lina Johansson of Utah won the race by one second, a large margin of victory for an alpine race. In the men’s race, Williams claimed another All-American as Heinrich-Wallace put together two solid runs to finish in eighth place. Frank finished in 24th, while the race was won by Brad Wall of Dartmouth on his home course.

For the team scoring, Williams finished 14th out of 22 schools, a slight drop from last year. This drop was due mostly to a smaller number of skiers qualifying for nationals, as only six of a possible 12 qualified.

Still, given the individual performance highlights of the week, it was a successful championship. The team victory for the weekend went to the University of Utah, with 682 points. UVM came in second with 551, followed closely by University of Colorado, scoring 546 points.

The Ephs also landed six skiers onto the NCAA Skiing All-Academic Team. Those named to the team must have attained a grade point average of 3.5 or higher this past term and must have also skied at regional championships. The skiers honored were Ashley Carter ’04, Kate Leonard ’03, Henson, Scheefer, Gillian Sowden ’06 and Jordan Goldwarg ’03.

With many of the team’s top skiers returning next year, as only one of the six athletes that participated at nationals was a senior, the future looks bright for Williams skiing.