Skiing finishes fourth at NCAA Championships

by Sabena Allen | 3/27/17 2:05am

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by Saphfire Brown / The Dartmouth

It wasn’t a national championship, but it was enough to be satisfied — for now.

The Dartmouth ski teams took fourth at the 2017 NCAA Skiing Championship, hosted by the University of New Hampshire from March 1 to 4. The event was dominated by Western schools: the University of Utah won the championship with the University of Colorado and University of Denver coming in second and third.

The Big Green had entertained title aspirations in the weeks leading up to NCAAs. However, the fourth-place finish was still Dartmouth’s best showing since 2012.

“I think there are mixed feelings,” alpine skier Thomas Woolson ’17 said. “Getting fourth was great for us. We were really excited to be back in the mix. We could kind of hang with the teams, even though we weren’t necessarily competing for a title the whole time. At the same time, we definitely had higher expectations. After how well we did in the east all season, we wanted to be competing to win a title.”

The men’s alpine team was the highest-scoring Big Green squad. Brian McLaughlin ’18 earned all-American honors by placing third in the giant slalom, while teammates Tanguy Nef ’20 and Woolson both placed in the top 10 in the slalom. McLaughlin looked to be on his way to a great score in the slalom but went down in his second run.

“Men’s alpine came in and wanted to win events and win the alpine portion,” McLaughlin said. “Alpine is pretty tough considering that you’re competing against extremely good skiers. Two of the skiers had been competing in World Cups this season. It’s really hard to compete at such a high level and to maintain consistency.”

Consistency issues were not limited to the men. The women’s alpine team started off on the wrong foot in the giant slalom. Kelly Moore ’18 skied into 12th place, the highest of the day after Foreste Peterson ’18 could not finish the second run. But the women came back strong on their second day of competition with a team-high 81 points in the slalom. Peterson was third in the event, with Alexa Dlouhy ’19 behind in sixth.

The men’s Nordic team also started off slow, with none of the the three Dartmouth skiers cracking the top 10 in the 10-kilometer classic. On the last day of competition, however, Fabian Stocek ’17 and Luke Brown ’18 both placed in the top 10 in the 20-kilometer freestyle as the men scored 66 points.

Women’s Nordic had a top-10 finish from Lauren Jortberg ’20 in the 5-kilometer classic. However, in the 15-kilometer freestyle, Dartmouth was shut out of the top 15.

According to Jortberg, Abby Drach ’20 and Lydia Blanchet ’19 battled illness throughout the competition, and the team’s performance suffered as a result. Blanchet was unable to start the 15K freestyle.

Dartmouth skiers faced stiff competition, especially from Western schools, which draw talented domestic and foreign skiers.

“We knew the level, we knew kind of where we needed to be, but we also thought that if we had our best day, we definitely could be competing with them,” Woolson said.

Dartmouth competed against Western skiers early in the season in non-college events, according to men’s alpine head coach Peter Dodge.

“We were much better at NCAAs against that competition,” he said. “We were better prepared against them than we had been earlier in the [season].”

Despite competing against the foreign talent of Western public schools, Dodge is optimistic about future NCAA championships.

“To win a championship you’ve got to have the speed, but you also have to have the consistency so that when you get that one-shot championship race, you can pull it off,” Dodge said. “I think we just need to work a little bit on our consistency.”

Most of the Big Green’s skiers can expect to return to NCAAs soon. Stocek and Woolson will graduate this year, but the other 10 members of Dartmouth’s NCAA team will return to competition next season.

The fourth-place finish caps a resurgent season for Dartmouth. The Big Green won the eastern conference title and lost only one carnival during 2017. The team is heading into next year in a very strong position with so many returning skiers. With a little luck, an NCAA championship, the first since 2007, could be in the near future.

“All four teams have to perform,” Dodge said. “If we can do that, we have a good shot.”