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Baker Glides Past Harvard in Alpine National Qualifier

By Jonathan Shefftz
head coach

Brooke Baker '97, MIT's sole competitor in the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association Championships, managed to single-handedly beat out four teams on the first day of the two-day competition, including Harvard University. The competition, held at Middlebury's Snow Bowl, was the eastern qualifier for the NCAA National Championships.

The weather for Friday's giant slalom was unseasonably warm, with occasional drizzle, but the exemplary work of the Snow Bowl's race crew kept the snow in mid-winter firmness using chemical treatment.

The first run featured many challenging, across-the-hill turns, but by far the biggest challenge was the mountain's unusual terrain. The course started on top of a large ramp by the side of the trail, which allowed the competitors a few quick, skating movements to build up speed before some long, gradual gliding turns on the flats.

After that, the course rapidly alternated between exceedingly steep pitches and exceedingly flat sections, which thus created compressions at the bottom of the pitches and drop-offs at the top of the pitches.

For the final steep pitch on the top part of the trail, the course allowed the competitors to tuck straight down the hill, to build up speed for a long flat section. This demanded an efficient aerodynamic position and good gliding skills.

Finally, the terrain became slightly steeper, before it culminated in one final, long, steep pitch within sight of the finish.

Baker skied cleanly yet somewhat tentatively for her first run on the unfamiliar terrain. The second run was set more straight, and Baker skied more aggressively to move up in the standings.

Her finish of 44th out of the 77 best NCAA skiers in the eastern United States allowed her single-handedly to beat four of the 18 other competing teams. These teams included MIT's regular-season competitor, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and also the full squads from St. Michael's College, Johnson State College, Harvard University.

The unseasonably warm weather became even warmer for Saturday, with a temperature in the 60s. Once again, excellent course preparation from the race crew kept the snow firm.

The slalom started halfway down the previous day's giant slalom course, which confronted the skiers with an initial moderate pitch that lead onto the final, steep pitch above the finish. The first turn on the steep pitch claimed many of the best collegiate skiers in the East, as they leaned in slightly only to crash onto their sides and consequently slide down the hill.

Unfortunately, Baker did the same, which also caused her to miss the next two turns on the pitch and slide out of control almost to the bottom.

In a move that reflected the exemplary team attitude of this season, Baker hiked up for almost half a minute to reach the first turn she had missed. However, the results listed Baker as disqualified.

Before Coach Jonathan Shefftz filed his official protest, he reviewed in slow motion the videotaped footage he had just shot, which revealed that Baker, in her exhaustion and confusion after the long hike, had indeed reached the first turn she had earlier missed, but had neglected to go through the second turn she had missed.

Shefftz and Baker together took one final post-race "team" run to finish off the season in the light drizzle.

Afterwards, with the second run about to start, the rain changed to a heavy downpour. The race was now temporarily on hold, because of the imminent lightning danger. Hundreds of drenched racers, coaches, course officials, and spectators evacuated the race hill and descended on the small lodge.

Baker did not ski in the second run. Her performance ends the ski team's 1997 season.