Castleton University’s Alpine ski teams have been building momentum and hope for the future with young athletes turning in good results among Division I skiers at local slopes during this modified COVID season.
As documented in the previous issue of the Castleton Spartan, the normal United States Collegiate Ski Association season was cancelled due to the pandemic, and Castleton’s Alpine ski teams have been competing with world-class competition in the Federation Internationale de Ski.
Staying in Vermont, the Alpine teams have hit the slopes at Burke Mountain, Sugarbush, Stowe, Suicide Six, Smuggler’s Notch, and Okemo, often competing in races with 100 competitors from some of the best college ski teams in the nation and many of the race lineups are dotted with future World Cup skiers, according to the team’s head coaches.
The challenge has been welcomed by the student athletes, as well as Co-Head Coach Christopher Eder, who oversees the team with Co-Head Coach Dale Solotruck.
“Overall, we have had some decent results. As mentioned before, we are up against some very high-caliber ski racers,” he said. “For our student-athletes, who are returning next season, competing in these FIS races this year is a good experience for them,” said Eder.
Freshman Lorenzo Mencaccini, who hails from Balogna, Italy, has turned in seven top 15 finishes this year, most recently a 13th place run at Burke.
“It is very gratifying to compete with good guys who train more than us throughout the year,” he said.
For the women, Petra Veljkovic, a native of Nis, Serbia, has been impressive as well with several top 30 runs as well as a few top 20 finishes.
“The competition this year has been really tough since we have been racing with D1 skiers. However, I feel like that is an even bigger motivation to race and ski better. It is definitely rewarding to compete on a higher level while having fun at the same time,” she said.
The freshmen had different ideas about the well-documented challenges of constant fresh snow this winter. Mencaccini was critical of his ability to adapt to the weather on the mountains.
“Skiing is also known to change with the weather and you have to take that into account. You have to be good at adapting to situations better than your opponents. I am not very good at particular snow conditions, but I am trying to improve,” he said.
Veljkovic seemed to not mind the barrage of fresh powder this winter as much.
“I’m used to skiing in different kinds of conditions, and I think that’s the beauty of skiing, not knowing what to expect,” she said.
Both Mencaccini and Veljkovic, along with the other underclassmen skiers should have a few successful seasons ahead to look forward to upon their anticipated return to the USCSA in the 2021-2022 season, according to Eder.
“In the end, they will benefit and likely ski faster when it comes time to compete back in the USCSA next season,” he said.