Monday, March 3, 2014

NCAA Skiing Championship Preview: UVM is EISA’s Best Chance of Beating West

Travis Dawson of the University of Vermont, skis during the first run of the men's giant slalom at the Dartmouth Carnival at Dartmouth Skiway on February 7, 2014 in Lyme, NH. (Dustin Satloff/EISA)

Dustin Satloff
PARK CITY, UT. - Only twice in the past 19 years has an Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association school has won the NCAA Skiing national championship.  All 17 other team champions have come from the West.  However the University of Vermont Alpine team, coming off a red-hot season will look to win its second NCAA National Championship in three years.
The EISA carnival season concluded on Saturday, February 22 at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, with the University of Vermont winning their 13th straight carnival, so it is not surprising that the Catamounts are the East’s most likely candidate to take home the team victory.  Vermont and Dartmouth are the only EISA teams sending a full 12-skier squad, however six schools from the west are fielding a full 12-skier roster.  Schools may send a maximum of three skiers per gender for Alpine and three skiers per gender for Nordic.  Three EISA schools are sending the maximum six alpine skiers to compete at the NCAA Championships in Park City on March 5-8.
Vermont’s Alpine roster is not at all surprising; Kate Ryley, Kristina Riis-Johannessen, and Elise Tefre represent the women.  Ryley and Riis-Johannessen are the two highest point-scorers of all skiers coming out of the East.  Vermont will look to continue their EISA success in Utah.  “I think what we’re doing is working,” Ryley said.  “We’re going to keep having fun, and keep staying focused.”  Jonathan Nordbotten, competing for UVM’s men, seconded Ryley’s statement.  “I think we are doing well.  Our Nordic team is strong, our alpine team is always strong.  People are dominating.  I think we will do well.”  UVM’s men have been dominant this season; they swept the podium in three of six carnival slalom races this season. 

Kristina Riis-Johannessen of the University of Vermont, skis during the second run of the women's giant slalom at the Middlebury Snow Bowl on February 22, 2014 in Hancock, VT. (Dustin Satloff/EISA)
UVM’s women are going into the competition trying not to overthink the NCAAs.  “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing; not thinking too much about it and just try to ski as I can ski,” Kristina Riis-Johannessen explained.  Travis Dawson, Kevin Drury, and Jonathan Nordbotten compose the Vermont men’s team.  Travis Dawson led the east in scoring and posted 10 top 5 results in 12 EISA races this season.  Kevin Drury finished the season on an upswing, grabbing three podium finishes in the final four races.  The sixth and final alpine competitor is Jonathan Nordbotten.  Nordbotten missed the first half of the EISA carnival season while racing on the World Cup, but did not disappoint upon return.  “I think we are capable of doing something amazing,” Nordbotten concluded.  Nordbotten was the individual giant slalom NCAA champion in 2013.
Lizzie Kistler of Dartmouth College, skis during the first run of the women's slalom at the Colby College Carnival at Sugarloaf Mountain on January 18, 2014 in Carabassett Valley, ME. (Dustin Satloff/EISA)
Dartmouth also fields a full 12-skier team.  The men’s team comprises Dylan Brooks, Ben Morse, and Robert Overing.  Dylan Brooks, one of only three freshman men from the East to be participating at the NCAA Skiing Championships, has posted six top 10 finishes in his rookie season.  “The level is going to be more competitive at Park City, so I am going to need to perform at my best,” Brooks said.  “I have been consistent all season, but if I want to place myself among the top collegiate skiers, I need to push myself out of my comfort zone and put everything on the line.”  Ben Morse will be competing in his third NCAA Championships, and has been a consistent point scorer for Dartmouth all season.  Robert Overing is Dartmouth’s third male competitor; Overing has been Dartmouth’s leading point-scorer, and has two podium finishes. 
Lizzie Kistler, Abby Fucigna, and Maisie Ide will represent Dartmouth’s women.  Both Kistler and Fucigna have participated in past NCAA Championships.  Lizzie Kistler has three podium finishes on the season, including one victory, and is Dartmouth’s leading point-scorer.  Abby Fucigna has two GS podium finishes, and could be a real podium threat in the GS at the NCAA Championships.  Said Fucigna of the giant slalom, “I'm pretty excited about the GS at NCAA's. I've had my best results in GS this year and have been pretty consistent so I'm confident that I can compete with the top girls in the East as well as the West.”
Hig Roberts of Middlebury College, skis during the second run of the men's giant slalom at the Middlebury Snow Bowl on February 22, 2014 in Hancock, VT. (Dustin Satloff/EISA)
Schools not fielding full, 12-man teams maintain a realistic viewpoint of the weekend’s competition.  Said Middlebury’s Hig Roberts, “I’m going to do some training, but very relaxed training, not too intense.  Get a good feeling on the skis.”   Roberts, who took first place in the season’s final GS competition added, “GS feels amazing, and my slalom is there too, I just have to clean a few things up.  I’m excited for Park City it's a great hill, I have a lot of friends out there that I cant wait to race against.”  Roberts was the only member of the men’s 5-person EISA All-Team East 1st Team who was not from the University of Vermont.  Teammate Chris McKenna was named part of the Men’s All-East 2nd Team and also the 2014 Men’s Edgewise/Winterfell Rookie of the Year.
The University of New Hampshire, one of the schools sending a full complement of alpine skiers, is optimistic.  Women’s All-East 2nd Team member, Randa Teschner, commented, “our team has a great mindset going into NCAAs.  If everyone skis to their full potential, our team will be successful. I'm really happy about our girls’ team for this event, we all grew up skiing together in Ontario and we know what each other needs to do well.   Teschner is joined by teammates Katie Farrow and Laura Rozinowicz. 
Randa Teschner of the University of New Hampshire, skis during the first run of the women's slalom at the Colby College Carnival at Sugarloaf Mountain on January 18, 2014 in Carabassett Valley, ME. (Dustin Satloff/EISA)
On the men’s side of the New Hampshire team, All-East 2nd Team member Corey Oliver is joined by teammates Kris Hopkins and Jay Ogle.  Ogle, commenting on the team’s preparation, said, “we haven't changed much as far as training goes. We are all skiing well right now so there isn't any need for any last minute switches. The only thing I did change was passing on a day of training this week to get into the gym instead.”  He added his thoughts on anticipating the conditions in Utah, noting that, “skiing out East is definitely very different from the Rockies.  Every time I go out West, the skiing always feels amazing in comparison. The snow has more grip, which makes for much more controlled skiing. I'm not sure if we will have a psychological advantage per say, but it will definitely be a pleasant change from the norm.”
 Three women, Jeanne Barthold, Mardene Haskell, and Paige Whistler join Colby College’s lone male competitor at the NCAA Championships.  Commenting on the foursome, Boardman said, “as a team we are trying to get ready for a stellar week by supporting each other. Individually we are all trying to get our minds and bodies in the right spot.”  When asked whether preparations would be different for this event than the regular season, Boardman continued, “in training I am doing the same stuff to prepare, thinking about skiing in the same way. I will try and keep my mindset right where it is, having fun out on the hill by laughing and smiling as much as I can.” 
Mardene Haskell (along with Dartmouth’s Lizzie Kistler) represent the only members of the women’s 5-person EISA All-Team East 1st Team who were not from the University of Vermont.  Haskell, who was also named the 2014 Women’s Edgewise/Winterfell Rookie of the Year, feels that she has struck a balance between individual and team performance.  In high school it was incredibly hard to not think about my world ranking… Fortunately in college, I feel that my whole perspective has changed. I am no longer just skiing for myself but I am skiing for the team’s success,” said Haskell, adding that I’ve never felt so much satisfaction than when the team did well. “  Jeanne Barthold added her voice to the discussion of the team’s relationship.  We all pushed each other a ton, while also having one of the best supportive team dynamics I have ever been a part of.  Our team not only appreciates the sport, but we had an insanely fun year as well.  We are a hardworking team, and it was awesome having it pay off.”
Jeanne Barthold of Colby College, skis during the second run of the women's giant slalom at the Middlebury Snow Bowl on February 22, 2014 in Hancock, VT. (Dustin Satloff/EISA)
So many schools chasing UVM is certainly nothing new, nor is UVM chasing a national title for the East.  Seeing strong, unfamiliar competitors from the West, however will surely give the Catamounts a test worthy of theNCAAs.  For the University of Vermont to take the championships, Jonathan Nordbotten reveals a very succinct formula.  “You have to get the 8 good runs there; 8 times 3.” Adding what may amount to a prediction, Nordbotten concluded, “ I think we are capable of doing something amazing.”
Kate Ryley of the University of Vermont, skis during the first run of the women's slalom at the Colby College Carnival at Sugarloaf Mountain on January 18, 2014 in Carabassett Valley, ME. (Dustin Satloff/EISA)

Full list of EISA competitors at NCAA Championships (alphabetical by last name)

Nick Bailey, Middlebury
Michael Boardman, Colby
Dylan Brooks, Dartmouth
Travis Dawson, Vermont
Kevin Drury, Vermont
Brad Farrell, St. Michael’s
Kris Hopkins, New Hampshire
Max Martin, Plymouth State
Chris McKenna, Middlebury
Ben Morse, Dartmouth

Jonathan Nordbotten, Vermont
Jay Ogle, New Hampshire
Coley Oliver, New Hampshire
Robert Overing, Dartmouth
Hig Roberts, Middlebury
Graham Scott, St. Lawrence

Jeanne Barthold, Colby
Shannon Campbell, Williams
Katie Farrow, New Hampshire
Abigail Fucigna, Dartmouth
Mardene Haskell, Colby
Maisie Ide, Dartmouth
Lizzie Kistler, Dartmouth
Yina Moe-Lange, Middlebury
Rebecca Nadler, Harvard
Kristina Riis-Johannessen, Vermont
Laura Rozinowicz, New Hampshire
Kate Ryley, Vermont
Elise Tefre, Vermont
Randa Teschner, New Hampshire
Allison Visconti, St. Lawrence
Paige Whistler, Colby