Last week, we concluded our 2014 season at the NCAA Ski Championships at the 2002 Olympic venues in Park City and Soldier Hollow, Utah. We qualified an unprecedented four athletes for the Championships: seniors Becca Nadler, Chris Stock and Jen Rolfes and junior Akeo Maifeld-Carucci. Becca’s sixth in the women’s GS on the first day was the highlight of our results there, along with strong nordic performances by Jen, Chris and Akeo. Read on for details in our Alpine and Nordic reports.
Alpine Report: GS and Slalom at Park City
Becca Nadler, our senior captain, represented Harvard Alpine at the 2014 NCAA Skiing Championships this year. The University of Utah hosted the event and the alpine races were contested on the 2002 Olympic venue of Park City.
The theme of the week was warm weather and soft snow conditions. In fact, in the four days leading up to Wednesday’s GS race, we were only able to get in a single training run on the race hill. This meant a massive advantage for the western schools, and Utah specifically, which trains and races on that hill frequently. Nonetheless, Becca attacked the hill on race day as she has attacked every race during her four years at Harvard: full throttle! She skied a solid first run, and then put the hammer down on her second run to move from a start number of 13 into sixth place for the race. This is particularly noteworthy because start number played a huge role in the way the race took shape. The first three starters, for example, all finished in the top four overall. Becca had one of the biggest move-ups of the day, so this was quite a successful performance on a number of levels. It should also be noted that four of the top five finishers were all previous NorAm winners in GS (NorAms are only one level of racing below the World Cup level), so it was one of the strongest fields the Championships has ever seen.
Friday’s slalom was postponed to Saturday due to unskiable conditions, as the snow was so crumbly the gates wouldn’t stay in the snow. Colder temperatures on Friday night produced the best racing surface of the week for the slalom on Saturday. Starting with bib 32, Rebecca skied a solid first run to move into the “flip-30″ for the second run, where she took full advantage of a better start position, notching 10th place on the run with some very aggressive and motivated skiing, and ending the day in 20th position.
We are very proud of Becca and all she has accomplished in her four years at Harvard.
Nordic Report: 5/10k Classic and 15/20k Skate at Soldier Hollow
Like our alpine counterparts, the nordic contestants at NCAAs had to contend with unusually warm and soft conditions for the championships this year. It was quite something to pull up to the venue for our first course preview on Tuesday and see the entire 5k ribbon of manmade snow highlighted in contrast to the brown mud on the surrounding terrain. Soldier Hollow knows how to organize a top-level race series in the face of challenging conditions, however, and they did a fine job this time around of making sure everyone was able to race on a fair, safe course.
2014 was the NCAA Championship debut of all three nordies who qualified this year. The individual-start 5/10k classic was our first race, and senior captain Jen Rolfes led the way with an impressive 17th as the fifth finisher from the Eastern region, just 14 seconds outside the top-10 in a very talented field.
Senior men’s captain Chris Stock led the way in the 10k with a 31st, followed by junior Akeo Maifeld-Carucci in 36th. Chris had finished the EISA season feeling a little tired, and went into the championships wanting some redemption. As the eighth Eastern finisher of the day, we consider his classic result mission accomplished. Akeo didn’t quite have the race he was hoping for, but skied as well as he thought he could have on that day.
After one rest day between nordic events, the 15/20k mass start dawned on the final day of the championships slightly ahead of schedule. Organizers moved start times up by an hour to avoid the extremely soft, slushy conditions that would inevitably develop on course by late morning.
The men started at 9:00 am on rocket-fast, icy snow for what was a very tactical 20k at altitude. By the end of the race the course was getting slushy, and Akeo, wearing bib 21, skied smart within his pack and finished 30th, only 1:36 outside the winning time. Chris finished his career for the Crimson in 38th, starting at the back of the race but gradually moving up and winning a battle with UNH’s Per Lindgren in the middle kilometers.
Jen had another outstanding day in the women’s 15k, which started after the snow transformation at 10:30 am. Rather than play the tactical game, the women took the pace out fast right from the gun. Jen started in bib 21 and held her position for the entire race, finishing 23rd. She skied at or near the front of a pack for the first lap and on the second lap tried to bridge a gap to the group in front of her. By the time she caught and passed the next skier the race had strung out, but she made a strong push in the final lap, scampered up the legendary Hermod’s Hill in the final kilometer and held off a closing MSU skier through the finish to complete the best 15k of her career.
With the combined points from Harvard’s four athletes, the Crimson finished thirteenth as a team at the Championships.
In addition to NCAAs, sophomore Hanna Barnes and freshman Maile Sapp competed in the U20 division of the 2014 Junior National Championships in Stowe last week. The plan was for both athletes to compete in only the first two of four races at the event. Hanna led the way for Harvard in the 5k classic on day one, taking 15th, and Maile wasn’t far behind in 21st. Both women qualified for the classic sprint heats on day two; Maile was 17th and Hanna took 20th. Complete results from JNs are available here.
And with that, we conclude our 2014 season. Thank you to all of our alumni and fans for following our progress along the way.