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Ski Team Earns National Ranking With Strong Preseason Results

By Jonathan S. Shefftz

The varsity ski team concluded its pre-season activities this past weekend, and is poised for some strong results in its regular season races over the upcoming weeks.

The alpine squads started on-snow training in October, and continued until fall exams, despite the unseasonably warm New England weather.

The team’s first pre-season race was a U.S. Ski Association giant slalom (characterized by longer-radius, higher-speed turns) at Mnt. Sunapee, NH on January 8. The freshmen class turned in the best results for the team, with Sarah M. Briggs ’03 and Marcy E. Paul ’03 in 41st and 42nd for the women, and Jonathan C. Bates ’03 in 67th for the men.

The second pre-season race was a USSA slalom at Pats Peak, NH on January 15. Although a small ski area, the race course takes up almost the entire vertical, and features many clad-steep pitches in a seemingly permanent ice sheet. Freshmen Paul and Briggs took 38th and 49th, with returning skier Monica L. Taylor ’01 sandwiched in between at 44th. Nicholas A. Kulkarni ’02, who sat out last season with a knee injury, led the men with 41st, while men’s co-captain Todd O. Dumond ’00 was close behind in 46th.

Green Mnt. dominates Haystack

The third and final pre-season race was a giant slalom race at Haystack, Vermont, hosted by the generally less competitive Thompson Division of the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference, whose more-competitive Osborne Division hosts MIT’s regular-season races. Although MIT knew it could not overtake the Thompson Division’s dominant Green Mountain College of Vermont (which offers skiing scholarships), it still hoped for a second-place finish, ahead of the rest of the Thompson Division.

The women arrived to find a surprise in the presence of Osborne Division rival Smith College, which had also decided to “cross over” into this out-of-Division race. In the 1999 season cumulative standings MIT had finished seventh right behind Smith. With the aggregate two-run times of each school’s top three skiers counting for the team standings, Green Mountain took first as expected, with Smith close behind. MIT nevertheless met its goal of outskiing all other six Thompson Division teams -- Amherst College, Holy Cross, Tufts, Boston University, Trinity, and Northeastern, in addition to Osborne Division rival University of Connecticut. For the individual standings, Paul led the women in sixth place, with Briggs in 14th and women’s captain Marianne H. Okal Jr. ’02 in 17th.

For the men, Green Mountain took first as expected, with an unexpectedly strong Worcester Polytechnic in second (led ironically by a top MIT recruit who had flunked out after his first semester at the Institute). After the first run in the morning, MIT was packed in tightly with four other teams: Trinity, UConn, BU, and Tufts. MIT had four racers positioned in the top 21 for the afternoon. But disaster struck as Dumond provided his best imitation of Austrian Herman Maier’s Nagano Olympic downhill crash, while men’s co-captain Ryan Maupin ’00 also spun out off the course to lose valuable time. When the snow had settled, MIT found itself in seventh, only three seconds off BU in fifth, and a mere 12 hundredths off Tufts in sixth. In the individual standings, Kulkarni took 15th, Bates 17th, and Maupin 21st.

The first regular season competition is scheduled for January 22-23 at Berkshire East, hosted by U-Mass Amherst. Former standout skier Brooke Baker ’99 is expected to make her debut appearance then as Alpine Assistant Coach.

Skiers ranked in national poll

In the U.S. Collegiate Ski Association pre-season national poll of ski coaches and conference directors throughout America, the MIT women took seventh in the nation behind conference rival Clarkson University (1st).

Contributions from freshman Jessica L. Baker ’03, combined with returning standout skiers Jessica M. Kleiss ’00 and Teresa M. Hung ’02, may propel MIT to better results than this.

The men took tenth in the poll, with dominating conference rival Clarkson in first. (Complete poll ranking results are available at < coaches.htm.>)

Team captain Derek G. Southwell ’01 has not only returning stars James W. Berry ’00 and Samuel T. Coradetti ’02, but also a bevy of freshmen, who could similarly propel the men to better results than predicted in the poll.