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Alpine Skiers Fare Well Despite Weather Conditions

By Jonathan S. Shefftz
Team Coach

The men's and women's alpine squads of the varsity ski racing team completed their second of five regular season race weekends this past Saturday and Sunday, with competition from the slopes, other teams, and the ever-uncooperative New England weather.

MIT competes in the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference's Osborne Division, which contains the second-most competitive collection of NCAA teams in the Eastern U.S.: Boston College; Plymouth State College; the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Smith College; Babson College; St. Anselm's College; Brown University; Colby-Sawyer College; New England College; and the University of Connecticut.

Since NCAA skiing competition is non-divisional, skiing is one of the few sports in which MIT competes against Division I and II schools, in addition to its more typical Division III rivals.

Each weekend 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), with each day's two runs added together to determine each 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 team got an early start for its on-snow training back in October at Killington, but was not scheduled to run any race training courses until the beginning of Independent Activities Period.

Weather thwarts training, races

Unfortunately, this coincided with the week of the now-infamous ice storm. After rain and warm temperatures wiped out local training options, the team headed north to Loon Mountain in New Hampshire where only more rain greeted them. Then a non-collegiate competition schedule for Mt. Sunapee on Jan. 10 was canceled because the ice storm disrupted power service.

Fortunately, cold temperatures returned for the next week, and with the northern snow pack intact the team was able to run some challenging race training courses at Loon. UMass hosted the first race at Berkshire East on Jan. 17-18. Co-captain Brooke Baker '99 led the women's team with 17th place in Saturday's slalom, while Monica Taylor '01 and Chrissy Hartmann '98 provided the other two scoring times. MIT finished seventh out of 11 teams, ahead of Babson, UConn, and the more northerly St. A's and New England College.

Co-captain Dave Kurd '98 led the men's team with 26th place, while the other four scoring times came from Brett Vasconcellos '99, co-captain Ryan Maupin '00, Sanjay Raman '01, and Todd Dumond '00. MIT finished seventh out of 10 teams, ahead of St. A's, UConn, and New England, and only a tantalizing two seconds - which translates into 2/10 of a second per person per run - out of fifth place.

For Sunday's giant slalom, Baker skied to 13th place, followed by Taylor and Hartmann. The MIT women took eighth place, letting Babson slip ahead this time. Top men's finishes came from Vasconcellos, Raman, Jeremy Gerstle '99, and Dan Zelazo '99. The MIT men skied to eighth place, letting New England slip ahead this time.

Warm, wet weather plagues races

Another week of training at Loon and also Mt. Cranmore ensued, with assistance from assistant coaches Ari Gerstle '96 and Sean Lavin '97, both four-year letter-winning veterans of the team. Plymouth State hosted the next race at Waterville Valley on Jan. 24-25. For the third year in a row, as if almost on cue, after a week of cold temperatures, warm and wet weather and fog settled in for Saturday's slalom, created large ruts in the course and obscuring the upcoming the terrain.

Baker skied to 11th, followed by Taylor and Hartmann. The MIT women once again took seventh out of 11 teams, but this time ahead of Babson, St. A's, New England - and perennial Division I powerhouse UMassAmherst. Moreover, the women were only one second per person per run out of fifth place.

Kurd skied to 22nd, followed by Maupin, Gerstle, Vasconcellos, and Raman. The MIT men took eighth, ahead of Colby-Sawyer and St. A's, and less than a second per person per run out of sixth.

For Sunday's giant slalom, for the third year in a row, once again as if almost on cue, cold temperatures returned along with a 90-mph summit wind, which shut down all except beginner chairlifts. Collegiate competitors had to ride a short T-bar and then hike to the top of the shortened race course.

Baker skied to 19th, followed by Marjorie Rosenthal '98 and Hartmann. The women took ninth, ahead of UConn and New England. Kurd skied to 24th, while the other scoring times came from Maupin, Vasconcellos, Raman, and Zelazo. The men took eighth, ahead of New England and UConn, and less than a second per person per run out of sixth.

Brown and UConn sponsor the next race at Loon this weekend. The women cumulatively stand in eighth place, ahead of St. A's, UConn, and New England, and within striking distance of Babson. The men cumulatively stand in eighth place, ahead of St A's and UConn, and only one point behind New England. Training for the last week of IAP will start at nearby Blue Hills, and then move back up north to Loon.