The Middlebury ski teams opened their season with laudable performances on both sides as they represented the College in Vermont and Utah. The alpine team scored a solid fourth place finish at the University of Vermont Winter Carnival over the weekend, while Annie Pokorny ’15 and Heather Mooney ’15 of the women’s nordic ski team qualified to represent Team USA in the 2013 World U-23 Championships with top finishes at the U.S. Cross Country Championship.
Traditional ski powerhouse and 2012 National Champion University of Vermont hosted the alpine half of their Winter Carnival in a two-day meet last Friday Jan. 11 and Saturday Jan. 12.
On the men’s side, junior standout David Donaldson ’14 won the men’s giant slalom with a time of 2:02.72 in his debut performance as a Panther. Donaldson, a transfer and Toronto native, could not compete last year due to NCAA rules.
As a first-year back in 2009, Donaldson won the NCAA Ski Championship Giant Slalom event and was named the ESIA Male Alpine Rookie of the Year.
When asked about the feeling of returning to his previous school for his first appearance on the Middlebury team, the former Catamount and 2009 Male Collegiate Skier of the Year said, “It was a lot of fun to get to race as a Panther finally. I have been waiting for the opportunity for what seems far too long, especially to get to start the season on my old home hill at Stowe Mountain against a lot of my old friends and teammates.”
Despite Donaldson’s victory, the giant slalom contest on Friday was a close race. After the first run, Donaldson, together with Andrew McNealus ’13 and Hig Roberts ’14, both returning members of last year’s Slalom National Championship Team, paced themselves in the top five. However, in the second run, McNealus and Roberts both had difficulties. McNealus missed a gate, while Roberts lost a ski. In the end, Liam Mulhern ’14 came 14th and senior captain Bryan Shpall ’13 placed 18th.
In the men’s slalom on Saturday, unstable weather and inconsistent snow conditions stood in the way of the Panther downhill skiers. Donaldson came away with a 10th place finish whilst his five other teammates were unable to complete the race.
“I have pretty high expectations for myself and the team,” said Donaldson. “I think it will only take one weekend of good results all around to start a real hot streak. And once we get rolling I think all roads lead to a good NCAA performance on our home hill.”
On the women’s side, sophomore Kara Shaw ’15 finished sixth in the women’s giant slalom with the time of 1:02.84 on Friday, Jan. 11. Katelyn Barclay ’15 finished 12th, followed by classmate Yina Moe-Lange ’15 in 16th place.
The second-year trio spearheaded the young Middlebury alpine women’s team again on Saturday Jan. 12, in the women’s slalom. Barclay crossed the finishing line in the ninth position. Shaw came behind in 21st place and Moe-Lange rounded off in 28th.
In Utah at the U.S. Cross Country Championships, Pokorny and Mooney both qualified to ski for the nation in Liberic, Czech Republic at the end of January in the 2013 World U-23 Championships. Pokorny had an outstanding showing on the Olympic courses at Soldier Hollow, as she finished fourth in the skate 10K race. Since she was the fastest female college skier in the event, she won the “Collegiate Cup.”
“This year was my fourth year racing at Nationals,” said Pokorny. “They were held at a venue that I raced on all through my junior career, so going into the races I was comfortable with the courses and altitude.”
Meanwhile, Mooney came in eighth place in the classic sprint race and earned herself a second trip to Europe after having qualified for the World U-23 Championship once before. Three other women and several men on the Nordic Ski Team also competed.
“When you’re in a race with a teammate, it helps you keep your head, it brings you back to training days and helps you ski fast and relaxed,” said Pokorny. “It’s so exciting to have two of us in Europe. The field at the World Championships is likely to be the most competitive I’ve ever faced. Many of the women I’ll be competing against are regulars on the world cup circuit. I intend to race my own race and absorb the experience.”
Both the alpine and nordic squads are looking to regroup and build on their current results in the coming weekend at the St. Lawrence Carnival in Whiteface. With great depth, leadership from NCAA veterans, and an outstanding showing of star skiers, the Middlebury ski teams are looking to pave the way for the NCAA Championships at our Snow Bowl in early March.