It’s early February and there isn’t any snow on the ground at Castleton State College.
But while the winter season has called in sick so far, the Castleton men’s and women’s ski teams have been acting like it is business as usual this season, tearing up the slopes with the hopes to return to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association National Championship races for the third year in a row.
First, though, the teams had to get through their new division rivals including Babson, Brown, UConn and Umss-Amherst in the ECSC MacConnell Division. Co-Head Coach Chris Eder described the teams’ new division as ” considered by many to be the most competitive USCSA division in the country.”
In the final regular season races of the year, the women’s team finished in sixth place in the Feb. 4 giant slalom race that was held at Crotched Mountain in Bennington, Vt. and it finished fourth in the Slalom race on Feb. 5.
The lady Spartans’ finishes were not enough to qualify them for a postseason berth, though, ending the team’s hope of returning to the USCSA National Championships.
According to Eder, the top five teams in the division earn a spot in the USCSA Regional races. While Castleton was fifth overall after the 10 races, The ECSC MacConnell Division selects the top five teams based on the finishes of the top seven skiers on each team.
In this scenario, according to Eder, Castleton came in sixth place.
“It is simply heart breaking to know that we finished fifth overall when you look at all ten races and then find out that you’re not making it to the postseason,” Eder said. “Our women have been working so hard since the beginning of the fall semester to earn a spot to the USCSA National Championships and to not even be able to advance to the Regional Championships is disappointing.”
Eder added that while the outcome was disappointing to all involved, the circumstances of races made it very thrilling for everybody to watch.
“It was exciting to watch it all unfold. It came down to the second run of the tenth race of the season,” Eder said. “[Co-Head Coach] Dale [Solotruck] and I are very proud of the way that our women battled it out to the very end.”
The men’s team on the other hand turned in second place finishes in both races during the weekend and will be advancing to the USCSA Regional races again.
“This is a very competitive division. Clarkson University is ranked fourth in the nation, while Castleton is sixth, UConn seventh and UMass eighth,” Eder said.
“Dale and I are extremely pleased with the way they have skied all season. To finish second in our first season in the ECSC MacConnell Division is something to be proud of.”
But unlike most year’s, Castleton’s overall goal isn’t simply to compete well enough in the USCSA Regional Championship to advance to the National Championships. This year they want to carve up the competition.
“Our goal this season is different as we want to win it all. We know we can. Clarkson will be going in as the favorite, but we have beaten them three times this season and came within a half-second on two occasions,” Eder said. “We know we can do it.”