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Alpine Ski Teams Give Respectable Showing

By Jonathan S. Shefftz
Alpine Coach

The men's and women's alpine ski racing teams completed their third of five regular season races this weekend, having battled the slopes, competing colleges, and the ever-uncooperative New England weather.

The teams ended up pretty well overall in the three meets with a couple of top-ten finishes. They head to Ascutney Mountain in Vermont this weekend and back to Berkshire East Ski Area next weekend.

Each competition consists of two runs each on a slalom course on Saturday (quick, short-radius turns) and a giant slalom course on Sunday (longer-radius turns at higher speeds). Each day's two runs are added together to determine a skier's finish for that day. The times of the fastest five men and the fastest three women determine the team standings for each squad.

The alpine squads started their five-week training camp at nearby Wachusett Mountain at the beginning of January; the blizzard conditions made for excellent training. Co-captain Ari Gerstle '96 led the team at two pre-season individual races at Cannon Mountain and Pats Peak in New Hampshire, sponsored by the US Ski Association.

First opponent: Mother Nature

The skiers were well prepared for their first weekend race on Jan. 20 and 21 in the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference's Osborne Division. This division contains the second most competitive collection of teams in the Eastern United States, including Boston College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Smith College, Babson College, Brown University, and a host of others.

Mother Nature dealt the MIT skiers their first challenge with a Friday monsoon that stripped the Boston area of all its snow. The team arrived Saturday morning at Berkshire East (training site of UMass Amherst) to find sufficient quantities of snow, or more precisely impenetrable ice.

The men turned in solid performances on both days for seventh place out of nine teams, as Co-Captain Geoff Johnson '97 led the team with 37th place in the giant slalom out of approximately 80 racers.

The women had an unfortunate share of "hooked" ski tips around the tight slalom gates on Saturday, but came back strong on Sunday, as Brooke Baker '99 made her debut with 15th place.

Team skis at Waterville

For the weekend of Jan. 27 and 28, the alpine squads journeyed north to Waterville Valley in New Hampshire, the training site of Plymouth State College.

A heavy snow started off the day, but almost as soon as Coach Jonathan Shefftz had set the morning practice course the snow turned to sleet and then a solid rain, which was eventually joined by high winds that shut down all the chairlifts.

Johnson led the men with 28th place, but perhaps even more impressive was the effort of Nate Kushman '98. With all of his equipment (skis, boots, and clothes) in a vehicle that failed to make the treacherous drive from Boston, he borrowed a teammate's equipment and provided the men's squad with its needed fifth finisher.

Baker led the women with 16th place, and Marcela Valderrama '97 backed her up with 39th, for eighth place out of ten teams overall.

The men unfortunately let a speedy University of Connecticut squad catch up to them, resulting in a tie for seventh place in the division's cumulative team standings.

The next race was the first weekend in February at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. In Saturday's slalom Sean Lavin '97 led the men with 37th place to snatch back the division's seventh place from the University of Connecticut.

Valderrama took 37th to put the women's team in eighth that day out of ten teams.

Mike Protz '96 turned in a blazingly fast second run on Sunday to lead the men with 39th place, but the University of Connecticut skied even faster to retake seventh place in the division from MIT.