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Alpine Skiers Race Well Despite Course Violation

By Jonathan S. Shefftz
head coach

The men's and women's alpine squads of ski racing team completed their third of five regular season race weekends with some outstanding individual finishes and solid team showings.

After its last week of January training camp at nearby Wachusett Mountain, MIT was well prepared for the race sponsored by Brown University and the University of Connecticut at Loon Mountain, N.H.

Normally the times of the fastest three women and fastest five men determine the team standings for each squad. However, for this weekend each men's team was split into two teams of five men each with the fastest three times of the first team counting. The second men's team could not score any points for its school, although it could displace other schools in the standings and therefore affect the cumulative scores for the season.

The Engineers posted some solid finishes for the first run on Loon's relatively short and easy slalom course. The men were led by a surprised Dave Kurd '98. "I thought that was a mistake when they announced my time - I couldn't believe I beat all those guys from UMass, Plymouth, and BC," Kurd said.

The first men's team had four clean finishes from which it could produce its three scorers for the second run in the afternoon, but the team knew that, as usual, anything could happen.

It did not help that the second run set was almost like the giant slalom course, with incredibly long distances between each slalom turn. Skiers from other teams were joking about whether to use their slalom or giant slalom skis. Although the maximum distance between turns in such a combination is supposed to be six meters, the course was set at 10 meters, in violation of the rules of the International Ski Federation, and hence, the rules of the U.S. Ski Association, the NCAA, the U.S. Collegiate Ski Association, and the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference.

As course officials tried to reset the first combination, Head Coach Jonathan Shefftz measured out all the other vertical combinations at between eight and nine meters, well above the six-meter maximum.

The team resigned themselves to adapting their skiing as best they could to the unusual course, delaying their turn initiations appropriately so as to match up with the wide distances between turns.

Brooke Baker '99 led the women in 21st place, followed by Chrissy Hartmann '98 and Sarah Carlson '00. The team earned an eighth-place finish out of 10 teams.

Kurd led the men in 12th, followed by Mike Protz '97 in 31st and Sean Lavin '97 in 37th. Also of note was the 28th place finish by Ryan Maupin '00, which allowed MIT's second team to displace Trinity College's first team. MIT's first team beat out St. Anselm's College, UConn, and Trinity but lost out narrowly to Brown by an average of three-fourths of a second per person per run.

The Engineers finished the day by concluding that some late afternoon mogul training was in order, as a foot of new snow had fallen the previous night.

Sunday's giant slalom race was ushered in by clearing skies and a perfect view of the inspiring Mt. Washington in the distance. Baker led the women with some near-perfect skiing for an inspiring sixth-place finish. She was followed by Marj Rosenthal '98 and Carlson, for an eighth-place team finish, behind St. Anselm's, which won by less than three-fourths of a second per person per run.

For the men, Kurd took 26th, co-captain Geoff Johnson '97 finished 32nd, and Protz placed 34th. The team lost out to Babson by a little over half a second per person per run. The Engineers finished well ahead of last year's rival UConn, as well as Trinity, with MIT's second team - led by co-captain Nate Kushman '98, Maupin, and Andy Boral '98 - displacing both those schools' first teams in the standings.

The alpine team travels this weekend to Ascutney Mountain, Vt. for a race hosted by Boston College. Last year's slalom was a battle of attrition on an extremely steep course. In the giant slalom, the men will face an additional challenge from a guest appearance by Harvard University. For the nordic team, MIT hosts its own race at Prospect Mountain, Vt.