PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The regular season ski racing is over, and the Plymouth State University ski teams will have home course advantage for the Eastern Regional Championships this weekend at Waterville Valley.
The Panther teams qualified for the Eastern Regionals with solid performances this winter in the MacConnell Division of the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference. PSU placed third out of nine schools in the men's division, winning two slalom races out of the 10 events, while the PSU women finished fourth out of 10 schools, with a pair of runner-ups as their top performances.
The slalom races are set for Saturday at 9:00 a.m. at Waterville Valley, with giant slalom at the same time on Sunday. The racers get two runs each, with the top combined times leading to team scoring. The top five men's and women's teams in the combined alpine will advance to the US Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association's National Championships on March 7-10 at Winter Park, Colo.
The Panthers, who are led by 20th-year head coach Kim Bownes and 12th-year assistant Dave Gyger, have been consistently strong finishers at the Eastern Regionals, which usually includes 18 or 19 teams. The PSU men have been in the top three the past three winters, including a tie for first in 2006, and the PSU women have placed in the top four in the past three seasons, including a tie for third a year ago.
"We're excited about this weekend," said Bownes. "Both of our teams have the potential to ski very well and been one of the top finishers. We have to ski as a team. We have a lot of depth, which will be important, but we also have both men's and women's skiers who could finish at the top."
Junior Jason Hey (Northboro, Mass.) leads the list of Panther contenders on the men's side. He captured the individual regular season title in the MacConnell Division, winning one race and placing in the top nine in nine out of 10 starts. Junior Vinnie DiNapoli (Ludlow, Vt.) finished fifth in the regular season, winning three straight slalom races in January, and senior Matt Prendergast (Westminster, Mass.) was 13th on the regular season list of more than 80 skiers.
Junior Melissa Caflisch (Clymer, N.Y./Northwood School) had another strong season and leads the Panther women. She placed fourth in the division (80 skiers) in the regular season, winning two slalom races, her eighth and ninth career victories. Sophomores Katie Van Riper (Carabasset Valley, Maine) was a consistent finisher for PSU, placing 12th in the division, and freshman Alyssa Deane (Casper, Wyo.) has enjoyed a solid rookie campaign, ending up 18th in the division.
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