The racing season for the Plymouth State University alpine ski team officially begins this weekend (Jan. 8-9) when the Panthers open the 2010 campaign with giant slalom races Mount Sunapee (N.H.), hosted by Colby-Sawyer College.
The men’s and women’s teams will race in the giant slalom on both Friday and Saturday, with each skier taking two runs each day. It is the first of five regular season weekends of racing this winter in the MacConnell Division of the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference, with five slalom and five giant slalom events filling out the schedule.
After races at Cranmore Mountain the following weekend (Jan. 15-16), PSU will host the Plymouth State Winter Carnival on Jan. 23-24 at Waterville Valley with the GS on Saturday and the slalom on Sunday.
The Panther skiing staff is new this season, with head coaching duties being shared by 15-year assistant coach Dave Gyger and newcomer Kim Zimmerman, a veteran Granite State ski racing coach, formerly of Franconia Ski Club.
Following the five regular-season weekends, the top five teams in the MacConnell Division advance to the U.S. Collegiate Snowsport Association’s Eastern Regional Championships on Feb. 20-21 at Waterville Valley. The top five teams at that event advance to the USCSA National Championships on Mar. 3-6 at Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine.
The Panthers had many highlights during the 2009 racing season, with both teams finishing in the top two at the eastern regional championships and placing fourth in the combined alpine at the national championships. The men’s team provided the top moment, capturing the slalom team national championship with contributions from every racer.
Coach Gyger is optimistic about this year’s squad, with the top four men’s and top three women’s skiers returning. The Panthers also have some strong newcomers that have improved the team depth.
“We think our women’s team should be as strong as last year, if not stronger,” said Gyger, the MacConnell Division Coach of the Year in 2004. “We graduated only one starter (Katie Van Riper), and we have three strong skiers returning at the top of our line-up. We have high expectations for the men’s team, with the top four guys back. We lost just two starters (Brad Deitch and Seth Bartlett), and we have some outstanding newcomers.”
The Panther women had their best season since 2001 last winter, finishing runner-up in the MacConnell Division as well as the regionals and capturing fourth place at the nationals. The top three Panthers are back this year in senior Alyssa Deane (Casper, Wyo.), sophomore Kait Pawlak (North Windham, Vt./Green Mountain Union), and junior Erin Fletcher (Franconia, Profile). Deane and Pawlak finished 2-3 in the individual regular season standings, and placed third and seventh, respectively, at the regionals and fifth and ninth at the nationals. Fletcher ended up ninth in the conference in the regular season and 11th at the regionals.
The addition of freshman Hilary Lemelin (Milan, Berlin, Gould Academy) and sophomore transfer Chelsey Cook (Meredith, Inter-Lakes, Franconia Ski Club) should add depth to the program, according to Gyger. Freshman Martina Ryberg (Sweden) could also be a strong contributor for the Panthers. PSU also has solid veterans in seniors Alex Albrecht (Canterbury, Carrabasset Valley), Lauren Germano (Glastonbury, Conn.) and Meghann McKenney (Hubbardston, Mass., Quabbin Regional, Waterville Valley BBTS) and sophomore Katherine Goller (Williston, Vt./Champlain Union).
“With the return of Deane, Pawlak, and Fletcher and that much depth,” said Gyger, “we should be in contention for top honors every week this season as well as the end when it counts.”
Junior Peter Ostroski (Intervale, Kennett) should lead the Panther men again. He’s a two-time conference champion, the defending regional champion and a six-time All-American. Right behind him are classmates Travis Nevins (Henniker, John Stark), Willie Colt (Hanover, Hanover), and Austin Nevins (Henniker, John Stark), who were the heart of last year’s squad. Senior Chris Carlucci (Mahopac, N.Y., Mahopac) should also be a regular contributor again, along with juniors Tyler Bailey (West Hurley, N.Y., Onteora) and Joseph Healey (Fitchburg, Mass., Lunenburg).
Gyger also noted that freshmen Chris Beadon (Ridgefield, Conn., Stratton Mountain School) and Parker Spear (Sodus Point, N.Y., Sodus Central) and sophomore transfer Tom Sampson (Plymouth, Waterville Valley) could all make an impact this season.
“We think the men have the potential to repeat their success from last year,” said Gyger. “It’s tough to compare teams from different years, but this could be one of the stronger teams we’ve ever had.”
Excerpted from the Citizen online.