PLYMOUTH, N.H. - With plenty of snow on the mountains this winter, the Plymouth State University alpine ski teams have been gearing up for the 2008 collegiate racing season.
The competition gets underway this Friday and Saturday when the Panthers travel to Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire for the opening races of the season. The men's and women's teams will compete in giant slalom races on both days.
After racing at Cranmore Mountain the following weekend (Jan. 18-19), the skiers will come to Waterville Valley on Jan. 26-27 for the PSU Winter Carnival, with the slalom races on Saturday and giant slalom on Sunday.
PSU will compete in five regular season slalom and giant slalom events this winter 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. 23-24 at Waterville Valley.
While relatively unknown, PSU's ski teams have enjoyed perennial success under 21st-year head coach Kim Bownes and 13th-year assistant Dave Gyger, who have both earned Conference Coach of the Year Awards. The Panther men's team finished runner-up at both the Eastern Regionals and the USCSA National Championships in 2007, while the women's squad tied for fourth at the Regionals and placed fifth at the Nationals.
2008 Panther Skiing Outlook
Coach Bownes (right) is optimistic about another strong season for both the men's and women's teams. The Panthers have seven returnees on the men's squad and nine on the women's, with several top-notch newcomers in both genders.
"We have considerably more depth on our men's team than we've had in several years, especially in slalom," said Bownes. "The women also have more depth and should be improved over last year for sure."
PSU has two outstanding ski racers at the top of the men's line-up in senior captain Jason Hey (Northboro, Mass.) and classmate Vinnie DiNapoli (Ludlow, Vt.) Hey captured the conference's regular season championship last year, finishing in the top 10 in nine of the 10 races, and placed fourth in the individual combined at the regionals and fifth in the combined at nationals. DiNapoli placed fifth in the regular season after winning three individual races, and finished runner-up in the individual combined at the regionals.
"Jason and Vinnie are two of the top ski racers in our conference and the Eastern Region," says Bownes, "and probably the entire country."
Sophomore Owen Carey-Hatch (Gilford, N.H.) and junior Seth Bartlett (Silver Lake, N.H.) give the Panthers two other strong returning veterans. Bownes is excited about freshmen Peter Ostroski (Intervale, N.H./Kennett), Chris Roche (Hingham, Mass./Holderness School, N.H.), and Gary Rumley (Rumford, Maine/Gould Academy), who should move into the starting line-up and contribute to the team this season.
"We have a men's team that is strong enough to challenge for the regional title, and if things go well, make some waves at the national level."
The Panthers have four key returnees on the women's team -- senior captains Melissa Caflisch (Clymer, N.Y./Northwood School) and Kara Marvelli (Franconia, N.H.), junior Katie Van Riper (Carabasset Valley, Maine) and sophomore Alyssa Deane (Casper, Wyo.)
Caflisch tops the group, having finished in the top four in the conference during the regular season the past three years, and placed in the top five in the combined at the Eastern Regionals the past two years. She took seventh at Nationals in both slalom and combined in 2006, and placed in the top 10 at Nationals last year in slalom, GS and combined.
Coach Bownes says the top newcomers on the women's team should be sophomore Alex Albrecht (Canterbury, N.H./Carrabasset Valley Academy) and freshman Erin Fletcher (Franconia, N.H.)
"We have a strong group of women returning, but several other schools in our conference are very strong, like Boston College and Colby-Sawyer. We have the ability to compete with them, but we will need to be focused."
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