Men;s and Women's Ski Teams Finish Season at Smith MeetBy Jonathan Shefftz
The men's and women's varsity alpine ski teams closed out their regular season February13-14 at Berkshire East, Massachusetts. The women's team finished seventh in the cumulative season-long team standings, while the top MIT woman took 15th in the cumulative individual standings. The men's team also turned in some strong individual performances, but continued to lag as a team.
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, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Smith College, Babson College, St. Anselm's College, Brown University, Colby-Sawyer College, New England College, and 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.
Smith College hosted the final regular season race at Berkshire East. The Lady Engineers entered the weekend solidly entrenched in seventh place out of 11 teams, but the men remained mired in last place out of ten teams, despite team finishes as high as sixth this season. Both teams were well prepared for this final weekend after four days straight of training at the nearby Blue Hills.
Still to be determined, however, was whether captain Brooke Baker '99 would qualify for the regional championships of the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference (ECSC), the qualifier for the NCAAnational championships. Baker would have to finish among the top 15 skiers for the season to qualify. With a small lead over two rival women from sixth-place Smith College, Baker had a fair chance to qualify for the ECSC.
The women skied well in Saturday's short but challenging slalom course, with Baker in 11th, followed by Monica Taylor '01 and Marianne Okal '02. Lisabeth Willey '02 also put together two clean runs. The women's team finished all four of their starters to take seventh place team, ahead of St. Anselm's, Babson, NEC, and UConn. In the individual standings, Baker's took 11th place, but her two rivals from Smith had even better showings, placing the three in a dead heat in qualifying for the ECSC championships.
By contrast, the men's team turned in an assortment of hooked tips, crashes, hikes, and other mishaps for a last place team finish. The only highlights were clean runs by Todd Dumond '00, Sanjay Raman '01, and Jeremy Gerstle '99.
In Sunday's giant slalom, the women's team lost their form and concentration. Baker crashed on the steep top part of the course, broke her ski binding, badly bruised her lower leg, and dashed her hopes of qualifying for the ECSC championships. Next up was Taylor, who leaned in for a brief hip slide within sight of the finish, although she still managed to finish with a respectable time for 33rd place. Okal then failed to negotiate a difficult corridor gate, and had to hike back up to avoid a disqualification. Willey posted a clean run, which helped the team avoid complete disaster to take 10th place, ahead of UConn. Despite the disappointing showing for the day, the women still held on to seventh for the season, and Baker finished 15th in the individual standings to qualify for the EISA championships.
The men's team improved on Saturday's race to turn in their best performances all season. Brett Vasconcellos G tied for 44th, with co-captain Ryan Maupin '00 right behind in 47th. The other three scoring times were contributed by Dumond, Raman, and Jay Fucetola '01. The team took ninth for the day, ahead of UConn. On another positive note, Vasconcellos's earlier 25th place finish in the season placed him in 47th for the cumulative individual standings.
With the alpine regular season concluded, all that remains is Baker's trip to the EISA Championships, to be held at Middlebury College's Snowbowl ski area. The challenging giant slalom race trail features many rolls and knolls unfamiliar to most commercial areas. Another challenge is competition from ski racing powerhouses such as Universities of Vermont and University of New Hampshire, as well as Dartmouth College. Adding to the interest will be the presence of Harvard University. Finally, also of note for the remainder of February is Taylor's crossover to MIT's nordic squads, making her the first MIT skier in many decades to compete during the same season in both the alpine and nordic disciplines.