Ski team faces abrupt conclusion to NCAA skiing championships

by Caitlyn McGovern | 4/7/20 2:05am

skiing
The NCAA Championships were canceled after two days of competition with the Big Green sitting in eighth place.
by Evan Morgan / The Dartmouth

After an exciting season, the Dartmouth ski team headed to Bozeman, Mont., to compete in the NCAA Championships, hosted by Montana State University, from March 11 through March 14. While the team arrived hoping to walk away with a national title, they were abruptly sent home after the NCAA suspended the event mid-competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the cancellation, the team was able to fit in two days of skiing and top-ten finishes.

Teams hit the slopes starting with the giant slalom race. Unfortunately, the conditions were not ideal for skiing.

“It was a little bit of a disappointing day,” men’s alpine head coach Peter Dodge said. “Conditions were very challenging with everything from soft, sort of dry snow to then melted snow to then a lot of wet weather, so the conditions were very tough on the course. When it’s like that, it gets very rough and bumpy and inconsistent.”

While skiers from the University of Colorado, University of Denver and the University of Utah made it to the platform in the men’s race, Dartmouth skiers still had a solid showing. Kipling Weisel ’18 had the best performance among the team, finishing 11th at 1:48.61, just 0.02 seconds behind the 10th-place finisher from Montana State. Drew Duffy ’21 finished in 20th at 1:49.34, and Andrew Miller ’22 did not finish his second run.

“The first run we started out a pretty solid start, especially with [Miller] coming down, finishing fourth, which is a super outstanding start,” Dodge said. “He was in a really good position to possibly even make a podium, a top-three finish, and he ended up having an equipment malfunction — a ski released in one of the big holes that were developing in the course. When he hit that, he lost his ski, so he was out of the competition. That was disappointing.”

In the women’s giant slalom, Tricia Mangan ’19 placed fourth with a time of 1:54.28, just 0.06 seconds shy of third-place finisher Sona Moravcikova from Utah. While she narrowly missed a podium finish, Mangan secured a spot on the All-American First Team for the second year in a row.

Mangan was one of three Big Green skiers in this race, with Abi Jewett ’22 finishing 22nd at 1:57.71 and Claire Thomas ’21 not finishing her second run. Dartmouth placed fourth overall out of 15 teams with a total of 30 points in the event. At the end of the day, Denver won first place with 172 points, Utah came in second with 152 points and Middlebury College took third place with 115; Dartmouth found itself in seventh place out of 23 teams with 71 points.

The team had a solid showing the next day during the cross-country freestyle races. In the women’s event, Katharine Ogden ’21 hoped to claim another National Champion title after winning the 2018 Classical, 2018 Freestyle and 2019 Classical races. Her strong performance landed her a fourth place finish closely behind third place Guro Jordheim from Utah.

“I had hoped to be on the podium, and getting fourth is a little bit bittersweet because on the one hand, I’ve done better than that in the past, but on the other hand, I felt pretty good in that race and definitely did as well as I was going to do,” Ogden said. “I gave my all there, so pleased with that.”

Mara McCollor ’23 and Molly Gellert ’22 also competed in the race, finishing in 20th and 29th place, respectively.

“Neither Molly nor Mara had been to the Championships before, so I think for them coming in as first timers … I think the best thing was just that they were going in with an open mind, were fired up to be there and just hoping to put together solid results,” women’s Nordic head coach Cami Thompson Graves said. 

In the men’s event, the University of Vermont, Utah and Denver took the podium, with Cameron Wolfe ’23 finishing in 26th and Adam Glueck ’21 in 35th. At the end of the second day, Utah was in first with 293 points, Denver in second with 261 points and Middlebury in third with 216 points. Dartmouth found itself in eighth place with 120 points, surpassing the University of New Hampshire by 14 points after lagging behind them the previous day.

After the first two days of competition, the team still had two more races to look forward to: the slalom race on March 13 and the classic race on March 14. However, plans changed when the NCAA announced that it was canceling all winter and spring championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This decision caught the team by surprise.

“We’d had a coaches meeting a few days prior, and we were told by the NCAA rep that they thought we were pretty solid,” Graves said. “There wasn’t great cell service up at the venue, so I found out by driving down into town after the second day of racing and getting a text message from [director of varsity athletics communications Rick Bender] saying, ‘So sorry it had to end this way.’”

Ogden reflected on the team’s shock and disappointment following the cancellation. 

“We were all kind of thrown — no one really knew how to react. We were pretty sad, but it was also just a crazy time because immediately we started having to figure out how to get home, how to change our airplane tickets and stuff and everything was messy,” Ogden said. “It didn’t even really seem like a possibility to any of us, and none of us had really mentally prepared for that at all.”

Not only was the rest of the championship canceled with the announcement, but also the remainder of the team’s regular season. While the ski team’s time on the slopes was cut short, Ogden looks back on the season with fondness.

“I was really pleased with my season,” she said. “I think that there were definitely some ups and downs, and it’s obviously a total bummer that it ended two weeks early, and that we also had to stop mid-championship was definitely a bummer. That being said, I’m still really psyched with how it ended up, and I think that I’m super stoked for next year.”