PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The college ski racing season begins this weekend for the Plymouth State University alpine ski teams as they begin what should be another outstanding and exciting campaign.
The Panther squads will make their season debut this weekend at Cranmore Mountain in North Conway, N.H. The men's and women's giant slalom races are slated for Friday with slalom races scheduled for Saturday. PSU will the host the Plymouth State Winter Carnival next weekend (Jan. 21-22) at Waterville Valley (N.H.) with the slalom on Saturday and the GS on Sunday.
PSU will compete in five regular season slalom and giant slalom events this season in the MacConnell Division of the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference. The top teams from the regular season circuit advance to the U.S. Collegiate Snowsport Association's Eastern Regional Championships on Feb. 25-26 at Waterville Valley, where the top finishers qualify for the USCSA National Championships on Mar. 8-11 at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine.
While relatively unknown, PSU's ski teams have enjoyed perennial success under 19th-year head coach Kim Bownes and 11th-year assistant Dave Gyger, who have both earned Conference Coach of the Year Awards. Both Panther squads finished in the top four at last year's Eastern Regionals, and the men were sixth and the women 11th in the combined alpine at the 2005 USCSA National Championships.
2006 Panther Skiing Outlook
Coach Bownes (right) is excited about this year's team,
with seven returning skiers on the men's side, eight veterans back
on the women's squad, and several solid newcomers on both teams.
"Our women's team is definitely the strongest we've had in recent years," says Bownes. "We've been building the team over the past few years, and each year we've gotten a little stronger. We have more depth than we've ever had and we're still strong at the top."
"The guys are basically the same team as we had last year, since we lost only one starter," adds Bownes. "We're a really strong slalom team. We're a little weaker in the GS, but I still like our team a lot."
Leading the returnees on the women's team is sophomore co-captain Melissa Caflisch (Clymer, N.Y./Northwood School), who enjoyed an outstanding season until an injury kept her out of the national championships. She won the slalom and tied for first in the combined alpine at the Eastern Regionals after finishing in the top three in seven out of 10 regular season races, including four victories.
Other key returnees include senior Chantelle Heroux (Cooperstown, N.Y.) and sophomore Kara Marvelli (Franconia, N.H.), who were both consistently strong finishers for PSU last winter. Freshman Kate Van Riper (Carabasset Valley, Maine), a transfer from the University of Maine, will add strength to the lineup. Senior co-captain Kristy Hoch (China, Maine) and freshman Paige Frohock (Boise, Idaho) should be strong in the slalom.
A strong group of five seniors, led by co-captain and five-time All-America Topher Harlow (North Conway, N.H.), will anchor a strong Panther men's contingent. Harlow has been ranked in the top three during the regular season the past two years, and finished seventh and eight in the combined alpine at the past two national championships. Senior co-captains Chad Demetry (Francestown, N.H.) and Matt Prendergast (Westminster, Mass.) and classmates Skip Bartlett (Silver Lake, N.H.) and Billy Halberstadt (Concord, N.H.) all have strong experience during the regular and post-seasons, giving the Panthers outstanding depth. In addition, sophomore Jason Hey (Northboro, Mass.) returns after finishing third in the slalom at the regionals and tied for 19th at the nationals as a freshman.
Bownes says the addition of freshman Josh Bedard (Laconia, N.H.) and sophomore transfer Vincent DiNapoli (Ludlow, Vt.) will offset the graduation of senior Tyler Barlow, who was a four-time All-America for the Panthers.
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