This year’s skiing NCAA championships were hosted by the University of Colorado-Boulder. With qualification based on the best two results from the season, Williams sent four alpine athletes to Steamboat: Alex Dyroff ’10, Emily Porter ’10, Laurel Carter ’12 and Geordie Lonza ’13. The four Ephs were joined by two Williams nordic competitors, Alice Nelson ’10 and Dimitri Luethi ’12, who raced at UC-Boulder’s Howelsen Hill. Denver University claimed the overall NCAA skiing championship, which combines the men’s and the women’s alpine and nordic team scores. Williams placed 12th overall, the team’s best result since it last claimed 12th in Nationals in 2001.
The men’s and women’s giant slalom races kicked off the four-day event, which began on Wednesday, March 10. Soft conditions and snow made the race challenging for all competitors. After a solid first run, Dyroff was sitting in 28th, but fell victim to a tricky second-run course set, and had to hike back into the course to finish in 35th overall. The men’s race was won by Denver University’s Leif Kristian Haugen, who, in addition to racing multiple World Cups this season, represented Norway in the giant slalom event at the Vancouver Olympics.
On the women’s side, Lonza led the Williams team in GS, finishing in 21st overall. Porter and Carter also had solid performances, finishing 29th and 31st overall, in a race won by Utah’s Eva Huckova, a former Slovakian national team member and Olympian.
The nordic Ephs started their races off the next day, with Luethi competing in the men’s 10K classic and Nelson racing in the women’s 5K classic. Luethi skied a strong race, finishing 15th overall on the men’s side. At the intermediate check point, the Eph sat in eighth, well within the top-10 benchmark for All-American honors, but couldn’t hold his pace through the second half of the race. The racer cited the 7000-foot altitude as a major factor in his performance. “Today and yesterday were the worst days, in terms of feeling the altitude,” Luethi said when asked about his race. This result does, however, mark career improvement for the sophomore, who finished 28th in his rookie appearance last season. Colorado’s Matt Gelso took first in the race. Meanwhile, Nelson did not have one of her strongest performances, finishing 36th in the 5K. Denver’s Antje Maempel won the race.
Both teams rested on Friday before the alpine Ephs skied back onto the hill Saturday evening to compete in the slalom. Dyroff skied two great runs to close out his collegiate career with an 18th place overall finish in the event. Andreas Adde, another Norwegian, claimed first for the University of Anchorage.
For the women, it was again Lonza who led the way, finishing in 19th overall to end an impressive a strong rookie appearance. Porter also laid down two solid runs, placing in 25th by the end of the night. Carter, unfortunately, straddled a gate during her first run and had to hike to finish and the setback placed her in 31st overall. Malin Hemmingsson, a one-time member of the Swedish junior national team now skiing for the University of New Mexico, won the women’s event.
Saturday’s alpine events came on the heels of a strong nordic performance earlier that day. Going into the final day of the championships, which featured Luethi racing for the Ephs in a 20K men’s skate mass start race and Nelson representing Williams in the 15K women’s counterpart, Williams sat in 13th, just eight points behind rival Colby. The two Ephs amassed 36 points to put the combined Williams team in 12th place – just ahead of Colby – by the end of the day.
In the men’s race, Luethi skied a conservative opening lap and began picking up spots in the back half of the race in a performance that was nearly the opposite of his classic race. Luethi finished the race in 14th, less than nine seconds from an All-American qualifying ninth place. The Eph easily outpaced the Dartmouth racers who had dominated the eastern region all season, coming in fourth for all the eastern skiers.
Nelson skied a solid race to trump many of her eastern rivals. Unfortunately, most of those rivals underperformed, leaving Nelson in 30th place despite her strong skiing. The altitude certainly affected the race, with a usually strong eastern contingent only placing one in the top 10 and three in the top 20. The race marks the last collegiate competition of Nelson’s career and her second appearance at NCAAs.
“I felt we had a very successful NCAA [appearance] all around,” Nordic Head Coach Bud Fisher said when asked to comment on his skiers’ performances. “Moving up to 12th from lower finishes in previous years … was something the team had its sights set on and achieved.”
Fisher went on to praise the individual efforts of both Luethi and Nelson last week. “Dimitri skied as well as anyone has for Williams in a long time,” he said. “Alice was among the women from our region to struggle with the altitude. I was especially proud of her finish in the 15K skate race, as she showed again the toughness and discipline that has made her one of the best female skiers in my time at Williams.”
NCAAs rounds out a successful Eph season. The team, which will graduate 10 seniors – three from the nordic side, seven from the alpine squad – will look to build on this year’s momentum with its 36 returning members next season.