By Chris Kilmer
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State ski team has continued to make a strong name for itself. The Panther men and women head into this weekend's Eastern Regionals at Waterville Valley as title contenders yet again, following another successful regular season.
The Panthers will compete in slalom races on Sunday (Feb. 21), with giant slalom races set for Monday (Feb. 22). The event will include the top ski racing teams from all over New England and New York.
If the team's regular season performances are any indicator of what lies ahead, look for the PSC men to win a third straight Regional crown. The Panther men haven't finished out of the top three yet this season, winning seven of the 10 races, placing runner-up twice and third once. At last year's regional competition, the Panther men swept both the slalom and giant slalom, earning them their second straight team title.
The women's team has been strong this season as well, finishing in the top three in half of the 10 races. The women finished tied for first in a giant slalom race at Waterville Valley last month, and took second three times. Last season the women placed first in the slalom and second in the giant slalom at the regionals to finish in a tie for first in the combined standings with Boston College, but BC won the tie-breaker leaving PSC as the runner-up.
Both Panther squads are well represented in this year's final regular season Eastern Collegiate Skiing Conference rankings. The men's team has the top ranked skier in the conference, three skiers in the top ten, six in the top 20 and eight in the top 30. The women have one top ten skier, two in the top 20 and four in the top 30.
Sophomore Fred DeBaets (Plymouth, NH), who finished in the top five in each of the 10 races this winter, enters the regional competition as the ECSC's top male skier. A fourth-place finisher in last year's giant slalom, DeBaets was the winner of four races this season. Sophomore Ryan Cornish (Carmel, NY) heads to the regional races ranked fifth and freshman Tim Mitchell (Ashland, MA) eighth. Cornish finished 42nd in his first race, but hasn't finished lower than 18th since, including five top ten finishes, and Mitchell finished no lower than 11th in seven of his 10 races.
Senior Carter Davidson (Madison, NH) and junior Mike LeBlanc (Plymouth, NH) finished 11th and 12th respectively in the ECSC final regular season standings. Davidson had three top ten finishes and LeBlanc two. Freshman EJ Cheney (Bethel, ME) is ranked 20th, sophomore Brad Dowding (Shrewsbury, MA) 21st, and junior Dave Chandler (Holden, MA), 25th.
The Panther women's team holds the region's fourth-ranked skier, sophomore Anda Curuta (Sibiu, Romania). After a tremendous freshman season, Curuta came back with another outstanding season this year, placing first in five of her eight races and second once. She finished with a ranking of fourth, which would've been higher, but she missed last weekend's races at Berkshire East (MA) because she was in Colorado skiing for her home country in the World Championships. As a freshman last season, Curuta finished as the individual women's champion in the Eastern Regionals (2nd slalom, 1st GS) and went on to take 11th at the U.S. Collegiate Skiing Association National Championships giant slalom competition and 16th in the slalom.
Senior Amanda DiLeo (Ridgewood, NJ) also finished in the women's top 20 for PSC, with a ranking of 12th. She has been a consistent top 20 finisher this season., and has also finished in the top ten three times. Finishing in the top 30 were senior Sarah Thompson (Southboro, MA) in 22nd and freshman Jen Ketchell (Wilmington, NY) in 27th.
Both Panther ski teams hope to continue their success in the weekend's regional races and qualify for the U.S. Collegiate Skiing Association Championships, held on Mar. 10-13 at Mammoth Lakes, CA.
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