The Castleton University alpine ski team has been nothing short of outstanding this season. The men and women’s team are both currently ranked number one respectively in the ECSC MacConnell division.
Freshman Karoline Rettenbacher has won five races in a row this season, and currently holds the top individual spot in the division. As a team, the women have won 100 percent of their races. In the individual standings, the Castleton women actually have seven of the top-16 ranked skiiers, including the top-three (Rettenbacher, Linn Ljungemo and Kylie Mackie.) The men have four of the top-13 ranked skiiers (Paul Rechberger, Logan Mackie, Cameron Heald and Anton Smith.) Rechberger has won four of the six races he has competed in this season.
These stats are especially impressive considering the Castleton team as a whole missed an entire race weekend due to disciplinary issues.
“If we hadn’t gotten suspended, Paul (Rechberger) would be the number one ranked skier in our division right now,” said junior Neil Sheehan.
But what is it that makes this team so special? According to the coaches, it is thanks to the hard work of the athletes.
“The student-athletes on our team deserve all the credit for our success. They work very hard to get our results,” said co-head coach Chris Eder.
Some would insist it is less about the actual skiing than it is about the atmosphere.
“We’re a tight knit family,” said junior Nate Bedell. “Our family wakes up and we go skiing together, we push ourselves to get better every day. We have a lot of fun, we do well and we give back.”
Others, however, attribute it to new faces.
“The team this year is really strong and we have some great new freshman that have really made us unbeatable,” said junior Li Aunes.
But even with all the accolades piling up for the team, Aunes says she is more proud of her teammates character than anything else.
“The fact that my captains saved a life is probably the proudest I’ve ever been of my team since I’ve been at Castleton,” Aunes said.
The Spartans will have one more regular season race weekend on Feb. 23-24. After that, the team will be moving on to regionals.
“Coming up next for us is the USCSA Eastern Regional Championships,” Eder said. “We hope to qualify for the USCSA National Championships (the top-five teams from Regionals advance to Nationals). In the post-season, we can only enter five women and five men into the races. So it is super important that we have at least three strong finishers in each race, as team scores are determined based on each team’s top-three finishers.”
It is safe to say that for the Spartans, expectations are high.
“I believe that we will win,” Bedell said. “We will settle for nothing less.”