Wolf Pack skiers hoping for best result yet in NCAA Championship
Special to the Sun
Ten Nevada skiers will be among the 148 competing in the 2009 National Collegiate Skiing Championship this week, eager to bring home the Wolf Pack’s best finish yet.
The championship will be held March 11-14 in Bethel and Rumford, Maine. The event combines scores from eight competitions in four disciplines: women’s and men’s Alpine, and women’s and men’s Nordic.
Alpine athletes will compete in slalom and giant slalom races, while the Nordic events will consist of a 5- and 10-kilometer classic and 15- and 20-kilometer freestyle race for the women and men, respectively.
Participants are selected based on a regional qualification process, with two regions for Alpine (East and West) and three for Nordic (Central, East and West).
With 10 qualified athletes, the Pack is just two shy of a full championship squad of 12 scorers (three per gender per discipline). This is the closest Nevada has been to a full representation since fielding 11 athletes in 2004.
Though four schools bring full teams to this year’s event, Nevada Director of Skiing and Head Nordic Coach August Teague feels his team rivals any.
“We are shooting for a top-five finish overall, with five individual All-American performances,” he said.
It would be the team’s best performance ever.
Sophomore Alpine competitor Amy Harris thinks the goal is realistic.
“We have people that can win races if they ski their best,” she said.
According to Teague, one advantage of his squad is consistent performance.
“We have the same guys scoring all the time,” he said.
And those are the athletes headed to the championship.
In Alpine, seniors Katie Lyons and Taryn O’Flynn join Harris for the women, while male competitors included sophomores Gregory Berger-Sabbatel and Shane Collins and freshman Martin Harris.
Lyons makes her third NCAA appearance after earning All-America honors last year. She placed among the top 15 in five races this year. Harris and O’Flynn each make their championship debut riding the best results of their respective careers. Harris turned in four top-10 finishes this season, while O’Flynn posted three.
Berger-Sabbatel and Collins each make their second NCAA appearance. Berger-Sabbatel earned all-America honors last year. He turned in six top-10 performances this season. Collins posted three. Martin Harris heads into his first championship following a second-place at the Western Regional Championship in February.
Nordic competitors include senior Lutz Preussler and sophomore Jonathan Pluvinet for the men, and senior Chelsea Holmes and Junior Kristin Ronnestrand for the women.
Preussler makes his fourth NCAA appearance this year, following a season in which he never finished out of the top 25, with a season-high placing of seventh. Pluvinet makes his championship debut after earning four top-10s this season.
Holmes also will compete in her fourth national championship after turning in an All-American performance last year. She posted four top-10 results this season. Ronnestrand competes in her second NCAA championship after competing in 2007 for the University of Colorado. This season she turned in five top-10 finishes.
The team heads to Nationals riding a third-place finish in the Western Regional Championships. The performance was the best ever for the Wolf Pack.
Teague said it accurately reflects his team’s capabilities.
“We have come into form and are skiing where we should have been all season,” he said.
Teague said that a top-five finish would require all athletes to fulfill their potential.
“People have to relax, have fun and ski smart,” he said. “Everyone is already there; now we just have to get it done.”
His team agrees.
Both Preussler and Amy Harris said the race should be treated “just like any other.”
“We have been skiing well all season, and this is just another race,” said Harris.
For Holmes, it is her last chance to compete with her team.
“I feel like whatever I need to do as an athlete needs to be done now. If some part of me has been holding back this year, this is the point where I have to let go of anything and everything … and just do it,” she said.
Preussler also approaches his final races in Maine.
“I know from [past years] that the NCAA Championship is the highlight of the season,” he said. If all goes according to plan, with “no reason not to improve on the results from previous years,” this one should be the highlight of his career.