Pictured: Alena Tofte in action on Wednesday at the NCAA Ski Championships (Chris City)
BURLINGTON, Vt. – Three Harvard skiers were in action at the NCAA Ski Championships hosted by the University of Vermont this weekend with the Crimson finishing 17th nationally.
On Wednesday in the giant slalom, Rebecca Nadler (33rd) and Catherine Sheils (35th) competed for the Crimson while Alena Tofte placed 31st in the 5K Free Technique Nordic event.
Tofte came all the way back from her No. 2 bib number and she held off a competitor by two tenths of a second to finish at 15:31.1.
"Alena easily beat her seeding and was just six seconds out of the top 25," noted Nordic coach Chris City. "The course features a challenging final uphill where a number of skiers withered and where many finishes were decided. We think Alena was putting time into a lot of people on that part of the course.
I'm really proud of Alena's result - she skied a good race, and did so on the biggest stage in college racing. It's easy to lose one's composure under the pressure of a national championship and Alena didn't. She skied to her game plan, and it's nice when you can ski a race that's reflective of your talent when the pressure is on. It's a very solid result for her first NCAA race."
On the slopes, the Crimson were not as fortunate but the program;s skiers were able to finish their races among the nation's elite.
Sheils suffered a fall on her first run that set her behind the field but she finished in impressive fashion with a second run time of 1:06.17. Nadler was also slowed on her opening run before clocking in at 1:06.50 to edge Sheils.
On Friday in the 15K mass start classic event, Tofte was caught in the pack. She eventually caught the middle group to secure a 35th place finish in a time of 59:28.7, springint the last leg to get in under an hour in the grueling event amidst tough, sticky conditions.
Challenging conditions for the classic mass start race resulted from several inches of new snow followed by warm temperatures overnight and steady rain during the women's race. Most of the eastern teams went with Klister wax, while many of the western prograsm chose to use a form of waxless ski called "zeros." In pre-race testing, the waxed skis performed better than waxless, but there didn't seem to be a distinct advantage to either in the race itself.
"The start of the course is largely downhill and Alena's skis were not as fast going down as others' so she was near the back from the beginning," said City. " She fought forward over the three laps. Because the wet, new snow was slow, it was a very long and tiring race for everyone. Alena held in well and it was a solid result for her in a very strong field.
I'm proud of the way Alena performed in her first NCAA Championships. She skied with great composure under pressure both days. It was good for her to see the best collegiate skiers in the country and there are definite lessons she can take forward for the future."
The women's slalom was the final event for Harvard with the Crimson competing on Saturday.
Nadler led the charge, finishing 20th while having a second run time that was 17th best. Sheils shook off a near fall to finish both of her runs and place 28th in the event.
Sheils and Nadler are the first-ever Harvard women's alpine NCAA qualifiers. Tofte is Harvard's first Nordic qualifier since 2004 and just the third since Harvard rejoined Division I in 1990.