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ISSUE 115 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/15/2002

Alpine teams voyage eastward for nationals

By Sarah Ferguson
Staff Writer

Friday, March 15, 2002

It has been an enduring journey, but in qualifying for nationals, the St. Olaf men's and women's alpine teams have reached their destination. During the week of March 10-17 both teams will travel to Waterville Valley, New Hampshire for the culminating meet of the 2002 season. It has been a long road for the Oles, who have competed with both the lack of snowfall as well as the competition. Nevertheless, the skiers have shown resiliency in overcoming this adversity.

Both the men and women will carry strong divisional and regional performances with them to nationals. Needing to place in the top five at divisionals and the top three at regionals, both teams secured spots in New Hampshire by capturing the overall titles. The Oles dominated their competition at divisionals held at Afton Alps. On the men's side, co-captain Joachim Rasmussen won both the slalom and giant slalom races. Teammate and fellow co-captain Josh Kinzer skied to a second place finish in the slalom before taking third in the giant slalom.

After the Ole women finished the slalom race in second place, co-captains Sarah Nelson and Auda Hatchner took first and third in the giant slalom, boosting their team into the first overall position. Nelson won the race despite crashing in front of the finish line.

In the regional meet held in Marquette, Michigan, both teams relied on gutsy underclassmen performances in the slalom race. On the men's side, junior Ben Belyea stepped up and won the race after watching teammates Rasmussen, Kinzer, and Nate Gruys all crash on the course. Sophomore Casey Charelson finished sixth after recording a strong second run.

The men avoided the drama in the giant slalom. Rasmussen won the race, completing his four year sweep of winning every collegiate giant slalom race. Kinzer finished second and Gruys took fifth, giving the Oles the overall title and securing a trip to nationals.

In the women's slalom, first-year Ole Megan Harrod tore through the course and finished fourth, slightly ahead of Nelson's fifth place performance. The women solidified their overall title by placing four skiers in the top ten of the giant slalom. Nelson and Hatchner crossed the line in second and third with teammates Lexy Zarling and Harrod finishing seventh and ninth, respectively. While the Oles have dominated their regional competition, they have also shown competency on a national scale. In addition to their regional races, the Oles have raced against Division I competition at Winter Park in Colorado. Rasmussen showed his ability to ski with the "big dogs" from Montana, Denver University, and Colorado-Boulder, by placing fourth in the slalom and fifth in the giant slalom competition. At nationals, the Oles will face the likes of Division III skiing powerhouse Sierra Nevada College amongst other highly touted teams.

Kinzer expressed confidence in his team's chances at nationals, saying, "The team has gelled very well this year...Now it's a matter of believing in each other, trusting our preparation, and letting the results take care of themselves."

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