Both teams took first place at the regional championships in Marquette, Mich. at the end of February, earning them a return trip to the United States Collegiate Ski Championships. Last year the women finished ninth in giant slalom (GS) and fifth in slalom while the men placed 19th in both.
The men placed second in the regional slalom events, and took first in GS to edge out Michigan Tech, one of their closest competitors in the Lake Superior Division. The women outshined the competition as well, taking first in both slalom and GS at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, beating out one of their closest competitors in the process.
Coached by Scott Skavanger, the teams have taken up right where they left off last season. They won their first race of the season at Afton Alps in Afton, Minn., and continued their solid skiing through divisionals at Spirit Mountain in Dultuth, Minn. where the women took first and the men placed second.
Skavanger, who graduated from St. Olaf in 1998, is very happy with the way the team has progressed.
They have gelled really well, Skavanger said. We have had some really focused training sessions.
Skavanger is in his first season as head coach after being hired in October. He had a very successful collegiate ski career as well, earning All-American honors in 1996 and was twice named captain.
Over Interim break, the team escaped the hills of Minnesota and traveled to Arapahoe Basin in Colorado to train.
That was huge, it really helped the team prepare for the rest of the season, Charlie Simacek 08 said.
From Colorado, the team traveled to La Crosse, Wisc. where they got additional training by racing individually in a non-collegiate event.
At nationals, five men and five women will compete in the slalom and GS events. For the mens slalom, St. Olaf will race captains Caleb Kinzer 05, Chris Remien 05, and Jake Olsen 06. Brian Yurinich 06 and Simacek will also race in slalom. Trevor Davis 07 will replace Kinzer in GS.
For the women, Meredith Marti 08, Kate Westby 07, Megan Harrod 05, Alison Guinn 06 and Hennessy Wadell 08 will race GS. In slalom, Marti, Guinn, Westby, and Wadell will race along with Jeanine Kooman 06.
The Oles next challenge will be the U.S. Collegiate Ski Championships in Brundage, Idaho, where they will compete March 7-12. No matter how they finish, their season will be considered a success.
The team also has a bright future; there are just three seniors on both the mens and womens teams combined.