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Baker Races in EISA Event At Middlebury

By Jonathan Shefftz

Captain Brooke Baker ’99 of the alpine ski team competed in the regional championships of the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl in Vermont this past weekend. Baker capped off the most successful four-year career of any alpine racer in the history of MIT women’s skiing. She scored enough points by herself at the meet to pull even with the entire Harvard women’s team.

The MIT women had finished seventh out of 11 teams this season, by far the best alpine squad in the history of MIT women’s skiing. Baker continued her strong skiing over the past four years to finish 15th in the individual standings (with finishes as high as fifth), which earned her a berth at the EISA championships.

Although MIT’s regular-season competition in the ECSC is very impressive, the competition in the EISA is at a level seldom seen in intercollegiate athletics outside of Division I sports such as football and basketball. All of the schools, with the exception of crosstown rival Harvard, are schools located in northern New England. Two schools, Dartmouth College and Middlebury College, operate their own ski areas, and the University of Vermont offers skiing scholarships. Many of the coaches and skiers have been or will be on the U.S. Ski Team. For example, St. Lawrence University’s top racer from last season, Thomas Vonn, is now on the U.S. Ski Team, and has twice finished in the top 30 on the World Cup, the pinnacle of alpine ski racing. Dartmouth’s Jennifer Collins at the end of her freshman year won at the U.S. National Championships, by beating the entire U.S. Ski Team.

Baker was familiar with such competition from her experience at the EISA regionals two years ago, and therefore knew she had to be in her top form. Unfortunately, a hard crash at the conclusion of the regular season had sidelined her for two weeks, but since X-rays indicated no fractures, Baker received an okay to compete from her doctor.

The giant slalom race was held on Friday, Feb. 26. Although most race courses feature fairly even, predictable terrain, the Snow Bowl’s giant slalom course is unlike anything seen at a normal commercial ski areas. After a long, flat stretch, the course dives into a series of alternating extremely steep and flat pitches, creating difficult compressions and then drop-offs. Next, the racers have to tuck straight down the final steep section of the top half to carry their speed over a long flat stretch. The pitch gradually increases over some mildly rolling terrain, and then culminates in the final, steepest pitch, in full display for the cheering students. Baker skied a strong race to take 40th place which put her ahead of every single skier from Bowdoin and Harvard.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, the skiers participated in the slalom race. The Snow Bowl’s slalom course starts off with a long, flat stretch, then gradually becomes steeper and steeper over mildly rolling terrain. The course’s final stretch offers the most difficult pitch. Adding to the challenge was the exceedingly tight turns, leaving no margin for error. Baker once again skied strong to take 33rd, ahead of every single skier from Harvard.

Although MIT’s entire women’s team consisted solely of Baker, and although a team’s top three finishers score toward the team standings, Baker’s strong performance tied her with the entire Harvard alpine women’s team for the championships. On that note, Baker and Coach Jonathan Shefftz took one final post-race team run on the giant slalom trail together to cap off her four-year career. Halfway down Baker went flying off an unmarked cliff by the side of the trail, but landed safely upright on her skis to conclude the season.