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Alpine Skiing Squads Fight Tough Battles Against UConn, Harvard

By Jonathan S. Shefftz
Team Coach

The men's and women's alpine squads of MIT's ski racing team completed their fourth regular season race this past Saturday and Sunday at Ascutney Mountain in Vermont. The result was another seesaw battle against their close rival the University of Connecticut and a victory over Harvard University.

The men went into this weekend one point out of seventh place in the cumulative conference team standings, behind UConn. Because they had only five finishers in the first run, all of whom counted toward the team score, the men found themselves hopelessly behind UConn by half a minute.

The first run of the slalom was not kind to either team; normally dependable racers either crashed, suffered from binding pre-releases, or hooked tips on the slalom gates on the flats in their all-out charges to the finish. The women also suffered because Chrissy Hartmann '99 had sustained minor injuries while skiing after her race run.

The second run became even more harsh than the first, as one of the turns above the steep pitch developed an slick sheet of ice and sent much of the women's field crashing into a deep, powdery hole. Coach Jonathan Shefftz, acting in his official capacity as the Assistant Referee for the race, deemed the course unsafe and requested that the top section be reset before the start of the men's race.

Mike Protz '96, however, avoided all such perils in skiing to 28th place. Nate Kushman '98 and Sean Lavin '97 also managed to finish the course, contributing to the team effort, although the team still lacked the crucial fourth and fifth finishers. The scoreboard at the finish revealed that UConn had suffered an even worse fate, allowing the MIT men to move into a tie for seventh place in the cumulative team standings for the season.

As Coach Shefftz commented on the competition, "That last UConn skier went flying so far off the course I think he ended up on another trail at another ski area."

On Sunday, Brooke Baker '99 turned in her third sizzling giant slalom performance of the season for 13th place. Marcela Valderrama '97 had troubles on her first run with an extra dense fog that seemed to descend onto the course just for her, but still finished a solid 44th overall, allowing the women to defeat both UConn and Trinity College. This finish moved the team into ninth place in the cumulative team standings.

The men faced an extra challenge, having to also compete against Harvard. Co-captain Geoff Johnson '97 led the men with 30th place, but crashes, binding preleases, and absences due to injuries and illnesses allowed UConn to retake seventh place in the division.

Protz, Jeremy Gerstle '99, Kushman, and Nick Howard '99 all provided finishes for the team effort that allowed MIT to defeat Harvard.

The alpine squads head to Berkshire East (training site of Smith College) this weekend.