Skiing combines for 14th at NCAAs

Williams qualified six skiers to compete in the NCAA Championships hosted by UVM at Stowe Mountain on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Laurel Carter ’12, Geordie Lonza ’13 and Annie Leiter ’13 represented the alpine team, while Dimitri Luethi ’12 and co-captains Sarah Tory ’11 and Keith Kantack ’11 qualified from the nordic team. The Ephs combined to finish 14th overall. Colorado took home the championship title.

Wednesday’s individual start skate race was held in warming conditions at the Trapp Family Lodge ski center in Stowe. Dartmouth sophomore Sam Tarling scored a huge upset victory in the men’s 10k skate. Tarling’s first-place finish lifted Dartmouth to a team victory over the favorites from Utah.

Kantack led the Ephs with a 22nd-place finish, finishing just 25 seconds out of the top 15. Luethi also had an impressive day with a 27th-place finish, one of his best skate results of the season. With a time of 27:38, Luethi was just 14 seconds behind Kantack’s time. In the women’s 5k skate race, Tory skied to 39th, just 30 seconds out of the top 30. Tory’s finish placed the women’s nordic team in 18th on Wednesday. The men’s nordic team finished in 11th on the day.

The giant slalom, the first scheduled alpine race, was pushed up from Thursday to a Wednesday start time to avoid a possible storm. Lonza had a strong first run, ending in sixth and only 0.4 seconds out of first. She struggled in her second run, however, and fell back to 11th place, finishing just outside of the All-American qualifying range. Lonza cited nerves as an issue in her second run and noted afterward that “going to a championship event like this one is really difficult because you have to perform on such a large stage.” Both Carter and Leiter struggled on the day, finishing in 23rd and 30th, respectively. The team finished in ninth on Wednesday.

Friday’s race brought rain and warm conditions to the mountain, but the nordic races continued as scheduled. In the women’s 15k classic mass-start race, Tory struggled to 39th place, fighting tough wax conditions and being forced to ski through driving rain. Tory’s finish placed the women in 18th on the day.

The men fared better despite also having to race with slow skis. Luethi hung tough for the first lap, looking relaxed and ending the lap in seventh place. Kantack was at the back of the main pack but looked solid in the first lap. However, as the race wore on, the weather conditions changed rapidly. Luethi and Kantack slipped backwards in the field, finishing 19th and 35th, respectively. Luethi was the third finisher out of the east, a sign of a strong but disappointing finish. The men’s nordic team finished 13th on Friday. “Bud and I left the venue soaked and exhausted but very satisfied with the season,” said Assistant Coach Aubrey Smith. “[We had] an amazing winter of training and racing and an amazing group of student athletes.”

The weather also proved challenging in Saturday’s alpine race: Prior to the start of the race, Stowe received a downpour, creating tough, wet conditions. The slalom event drew large crowds, “but the snow conditions were not ideal,” said Assistant Coach Kelsey Levine. “The girls gave it their all and fought hard.” Lonza battled to 11th in her first run, moving back to 19th following a second-run bobble. Lonza attributed her mistake to nerves. “It’s tough to relax with TV cameras at the start of a race,” she said. Carter fell in her first run, but she took advantage of a good start number in her second run to tally the fastest second run time. Carter finished the day in 27th despite her first-run fall. Leiter also fell in the first run and did not complete the race. The women finished in ninth overall.

Though the women had hoped for a stronger result, they count the experience as important for the future of the team. Leiter was a first-time qualifier and will benefit from this experience next year on the collegiate circuit. Lonza also felt that the championship was a great learning experience: “I learned a lot from the different highs and lows of my week, and I know what I need to do to do well next year. I’m ready for it.”
With the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, the nordic team will graduate eight seniors: Caleb Lucy ’11, Robby Cuthbert ’11, Mark Johnson ’11, Kirsten Johnson ’11, Maddy Wendt ’11, co-captain Evan Dethier ’11, Tory and Kantack. The alpine team will graduate three seniors: Annie Hanson ’11 and co-captains Jeff Putnam ’11 and Alex Reeves ’11.

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