Spartan men skiers head to nationals, women fall short.

The Spartan men’s ski team advanced to the United States Collegiate Skiing Association (USCSA) National Championship races, while the women’s team fell just short in Waterville Valley, N. H. last weekend. The men took fifth place at the USCSA Eastern Regional Championship races, with Plymouth State University taking first place honors, while the women took seventh place, with Colby-Sawyer College taking first place honors.

When the Spartan men’s and women’s teams clinched a playoff berth in the regional championship races four weeks ago, head coach Chris Eder predicted that his two teams would have a good shot at advancing to the national championship races.

Spartan ski team members echoed their coach’s confidence, but at the same time, they knew what difficulties lay ahead.

Freshman Stephanie Kopko expected last weekend’s races to be very difficult. She said the courses would be longer and harder.

“We are pushed outside our normal boundaries, and [the races] really test our limits,” she said.

On the first day of last weekend’s regional races, the men took sixth place, while the women took seventh.

“Castleton has never done as well as we did this year at regionals and that is really exciting because I know in the future we will be even better,” said Heather Patterson, a sophomore.

Junior Justin Schwartz was also proud of his team’s accomplishments on the first day and was hopeful for a good outcome on the second day of racing.

“The women skied well and fought through a tough course fraught with challenges, while the men battled through an equally difficult course to finish as well as we did,” he said.

As well as the Spartans skied on Saturday, they knew they would have to ski even better on Sunday to break into the top five.

That is just what the men did.

The men’s team had a shaky first run, which dropped them in the standings, but they came back with a vengeance.

“They were a bit down after the first run, as we were behind the eight ball at that point with one run to go. Our guys turned it on second run and skied well. They went for it and laid down a solid second run,” Eder said. “[On Sunday] we capitalized on mistakes by the Boston College ski team to sneak in front of them in the overall standings.

Boston College’s top skier, Shawn Radman, fell down halfway through the course in his second run, allowing the Spartans to swoop into fifth place, leaving Boston College in sixth.

After the finishing times of all 70 competing men were combined from both days of racing, the Spartan men’s standout skiers were William Colt (5th), Justin Schwartz (18th), and Greg Towle (23rd).

Even though the women fell just short of the top five, they battled brilliantly.

“I’m really happy with the way our women skied this weekend. Our team result is the best we have done in our brief history,” said Eder.

Heather Patterson’s 23rd place finish on Saturday is the best ever for a lady Spartan at the regional championship races.

After the finishing times of all 70 competing women were combined from both days of racing, the standout skiers for the lady Spartans were Patterson and Brenna Nolan (tied for 31st) and Madeline Kirbach (35th).

The USCSA National Championship races will begin March 3, at Sunday River Mountain in Bethel, Maine.

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