As we approached mid-season with the school semester finally getting underway, Lafayette’s Ski Team looked forward to getting some talented skiers back who couldn’t make the races over winter break. On January 28th we traveled to Hidden Valley, NJ for a GS race, and enjoyed beautiful, warm, sunny weather all weekend, as the men’s team welcomed back sophomore Reed Shapiro and finally saw what experienced freshman Connor Kennedy offered. Reed’s return could not have come at a better time as he immediately made an impact on the A-team skiing to a respectable 16th place finish in his first race of the season behind Tanner (3rd) and Kyle (8th). Unfortunately with DNF’s to Matt and Jake, the men’s team could only manage a 3rd place podium finish that day. Meanwhile the women’s team welcomed back sophomore Catey Condit and didn’t miss a beat with continuing their dominance. They skied to another 1st place finish behind Meg (1st), Julia (2nd), and Catey (9th). Not only did they come in 1st, but they were a full 18 seconds ahead of 2nd place Fairfield that day, a huge margin.
On Sunday 1/29, the men’s team finally skied back into 1st place form as everyone turned in an inspiring run. The depth was outstanding as five of the men skied to top 10 finishes, the most we had ever had. The team was paced by Tanner (3rd), Matt (5th), Kyle (7th), Connor (9th), and Reed (10th). The women on the other hand, flip-flopped with the men that day and skied to an unusual 3rd place finish. The margin was small, as they were less then a second behind 2nd place Fairfield due to an unusual DNF from normally consistent top racer Meg del Col. Julia (2nd) and Catey (7th) paced the women, and Lake Tahoe California girl Suzanne Feutz was welcomed back to the team with a 19th place finish out of the 43 or so women racing that day.
The following week the men’s team wasn’t sure what to expect as they were missing top racer Tanner Flanigan for the notoriously difficult Hunter Mountain slalom on February 4th. Normally the Hunter course is the most difficult of the season as it is the biggest mountain we race on. Despite all this, the men breezed through to a 2nd place finish behind solid runs from Kyle (5th), Matt (11th), and Jake (14th). The women avenged their loss from the previous Sunday with a 1st place finish behind Meg (1st), Julia (2nd), and a rounding into top form Rebekah and Jess, who skied to impressive 16th and 18th place finishes respectively. The margin of victory was less then 2 seconds, but the girls pulled it out over Lehigh despite unusual DNF’s from normally consistent Sam and Suzanne.
On Sunday, we were still without Tanner and we needed Kyle, our own prep school star from Loomis Chafee to step up for us, and he did, skiing to a brilliant 2nd place finish, the best of his career, and nearly upsetting Lehigh’s star Matt Kryzwicki. Our own Matt Bernhard continued his dominance contributing to the men’s team 2nd place podium with his own 4th place finish, and freshman Connor Kennedy continued skiing well for us (coming in 7th). Meanwhile the women, in their most impressive victory of the season, came in 1st place on Sunday despite a DSQ to top skier Julia Mason. The depth of the women’s team came through despite Meg skiing (what was for her) a rare 2nd place finish. Along with Meg, Rebekah Scharfe skiing to a career best 10th place finish, and Sam Ladell skiing to an 11th place finish were able to overcome the veteran Lehigh girls squad by a full five seconds. This was a true team victory as the underclassmen racers, often overlooked because of superstars Meg and Julia, were able to keep improving all season and come into top form right when the team needed it most with Julia going down and experienced racers Suzanne and Catey unable to make the race.
Coming into the last weekend of the season on 2/11, again at Hunter, the men’s team was ecstatic with senior captain Matt Bernhard being in 1st place overall after the first run of the day. We know how hard he works at this sport and it showed in his senior year, as he had put together his finest season. Matt skiing to a 1st place finish finally in the last weekend was therefore fitting and amazing to see. Seeing him beat out more experienced skiers who had raced their entire lives was awesome to witness. Unfortunately the pressure to finish 1st was too much to overcome, as he was unable to finish strong on the 2nd run. The men’s team ended up being paced by seniors Jake (6th), Steve (14th), and Adrian (18th) and skied to a 3rd place finish behind Lehigh and Columbia due to a DNF from Tanner. The women again fighting for position with a DSQ to Julia Mason placed 4th, with Meg (2nd), Rebekah (15th) and Sam (16th) leading the way.
On Sunday, the conditions were frigid, and as it was the last race, it was tradition for teams to dress up in ridiculous outfits. Tanner, skiing in red farmer flannels, finished in his customary 2nd place on the first run. However, being told to just “go all out” on the second run, in his absolute final race of the season he skied to an amazing 1st place finish on that run, showing that he could beat Lehigh’s best racer (and win wearing flannels). Unfortunately that run wasn’t enough as he was barely a combined 2/10ths of a second short of Lehigh’s Kryzwicki overall. The team was paced by Tanner (2nd), Jake (6th), and Steve (15th) for a 2nd place finish. This last race was exciting to witness because we could all see how much the freshmen guys had improved with Drew Beyer (16th), Little John (18th), and Pistol Pete (26th) all having their best races of the season on Sunday. Matt, skiing in a bright 1980’s one piece outfit instead of his usual sleek GS suit, and skiing on 190 cm, thrift store Lange straight skis that didn’t turn instead of his race skis, lacked his customary explosiveness on the hill and skied to only a 17th place finish, yet still managed to somehow beat me despite his 30 year old skis. Meanwhile the women, in a fitting end to their season came in 1st place, edging out Fairfield by less than a second, with Meg (1st), Julia (4th), and Rebekah (17th) leading the team. The competitiveness between the girls was fun to watch as Rebekah, Jess (18th), and Sam (20th) were all skiing neck and neck with each other for most of the season, trying to edge one another out each race. Team mom, Mel Cybriwsky braved the frigid temperatures by skiing the course in a sports bra and bright green spandex pants. Luckily, we had her parka waiting for her at the bottom.
After this final race, our women’s team was presented with their 1st place trophy at the conference awards ceremony and the men received 2nd place overall, qualifying both teams for the Regional Championship at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. Individually, we had a number of impressive performances this season with Jake being 9th overall in the conference, Matt 7th, and Tanner 5th. For the women, Julia was 3rd overall and Meg was 1st. We look forward to preparing for the Regional Championship in 2 weeks where our teams will be tested against top competition from much bigger schools like Penn State, Duke, and West Virginia University. This season, we feel confident that we can finally take that next step and qualify for nationals from regionals with the talent on our roster and the inspiring season we had. We proved that we were a powerhouse program in our conference, and we are finally ready to prove that we are good enough to compete in our mid-atlantic region (and hopefully we can all drive down to West Virginia in pickup trucks blasting “country roads”). We have two weeks to get ready, and I think the team is looking forward to finally spending a weekend on campus after a whirlwind 5-week season.