Author: Andrew N. Zimmermann
In what turned out to be a successful weekend for Eastern schools, Middlebury finished eighth at this year’s NCAA Skiing Championships at Dartmouth College. Four out of the top 10 finishers were Eastern schools with the University of Vermont (UVM) finishing second to a strong Utah University squad which blew away the competition by over 130 points. On the Panther alpine side it was Eric Rygg ’03, David Coriell ’06 and Laura Scripture ’04 who led the way, each garnering All-American honors by finishing in the top 10 individually.
The Dartmouth Skiway, a college owned ski area much like Middlebury’s Snow Bowl, played host to all the alpine events over the weekend, including the giant slalom (GS) which took place on Thursday. The Panthers entered the race having been practicing since Monday on a hill that is characterized by its relatively flat, rolling terrain.
Scripture, a leader all year for the women’s alpine team, said of the slope, “It is really flat and I hadn’t done well there in the past.” All that was irrelevant as course conditions held up along with Scripture’s two runs, which placed her in seventh, earning 33 points for the team and an All-American title for herself. Of her top-10 finish Scripture said, “That was my goal and [earning All-American honors] was a bonus.” Her teammate, Jessica Smith ’05, came in 18th to give the Panthers an added boost in points. Smith, along with Scripture, has provided Middlebury solid results all year long. Jamie Kingsbury of UVM skied a brilliant race to nip Lina Johansson of Utah for the championship.
The men took to the hill under partly cloudy skies and had similar results. First-year racer David Coriell ended a stellar rookie campaign by grabbing 10th in the GS and taking All-American honors in his very first NCAA Championships. Coriell repeated the feat that John Rusten ’05 achieved last year as a first-year in the GS in Alaska. Rusten this year glided to a 14th place result with Rygg skiing well but just missing All-American again by coming in 11th. With five racers in the top 15 spots in the GS at the end of day one, Middlebury was in good shape heading into the more technically difficult slalom over the weekend.
In no other terms, Saturday was Rygg’s day. While the senior still has one year of NCAA eligibility left, he has been a part of the heartbreak of finishing close to– but out of– the top 10 before. And with his preferred event, the GS, behind him, Rygg was again facing the possibility of leaving another NCAA Championship with a near miss. Yet on Saturday, the senior from Belvedere, Calif., came into the slalom expecting a top 20 finish to be a challenge. Over his career he has gained comfort on his shorter slalom skis. Some sunny, California-type weather helped Rygg’s successful equation. “With no worries, warm weather and good preparation I found confidence in my skiing ability at Dartmouth and felt comfortable on my slalom skis for the first time all year,” said Rygg.
The first run found him in ninth and the first racer to come down in the second run. With Rusten disqualified, Rygg and Coriell had to ski solid second runs and make sure they finished. Rygg took a quick aggressive line and sped down as the second fastest racer of the second run. His afternoon performance found him in fifth at the end of the day and a well-deserved All-American.
Coriell came in 12th to complete a successful NCAA championship. It was a local boy, Bradley Wall, of Dartmouth who took the slalom on his home hill after finishing second in the GS on Thursday. Jimmy Cochran and Scott Kennison of UVM finished off an All-Eastern skiers podium for the slalom.
For the women, Scripture proved to be the most consistent skier, taking eighth in the slalom. She finished as an All-American in both the slalom and the GS demonstrating a great all-around ability. With another year left, Scripture is excited about the possibilities next year holds. “I am psyched about a bunch of new girls coming on the team,” she said. Middlebury will not lose one member from either the men’s or women’s alpine team to graduations which should bode well for next year. Rygg and Scripture will be back to help lead the Panthers to new heights both on the Carnival circuit and in the NCAAs.
In the end it was a solid performance for Middlebury, which had finished 11th last winter in Alaska. The Championship saw promising and gratifying results with Coriell, Scripture, Rygg and company all writing important chapters in the overall story.
For Rygg it was doubly special as, after three years, he was finally awarded an individual honor for strident devotion and contributions as a team member. The senior said of the unique experience, “Coming down the course and into the finish to hear the roar of the crowd and watch the following eight skiers down behind me to find out that I moved into fifth place will be a moment I will cherish and never forget.”