PLYMOUTH, N.H. - A new era of the Plymouth State University ski team officially begins this weekend (Jan. 9-10) when the Panthers open the 2009 season with races at the Colby-Sawyer Carnival at Mount Sunapee (N.H.)
The teams will race in the giant slalom on both Friday and Saturday, with all skiers taking two runs each day. It is the first of five regular season weekends of racing this season in the MacConnell Division of the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference.
The season opener marks the debut of PSU first-year head coach Topher Harlow, who spent two seasons as an assistant coach and three years as an All-American ski racer for PSU. Harlow (right) takes over from former longtime coach Kim Bownes, who is now PSU's Associate Athletic Director.
After a pair of slalom races at Cranmore Mountain (N.H.) the following weekend (Jan. 16-17), PSU will host the Plymouth State Winter Carnival on Jan. 24-25 at Waterville Valley (N.H.) with the slalom on Saturday and the GS on Sunday.
Following the five regular-season weekends, the top five teams advance to the U.S. Collegiate Snowsport Association's Eastern Regional Championships on Feb. 21-22 at Waterville Valley. The top five teams at that event advance to the USCSA National Championships on Mar. 5-8 at Winter Park, Colo.
2009 Panther Skiing Outlook
Coach Harlow is optimistic about this year's team, with eight returning skiers on the men's side, six veterans back on the women's squad, and some solid newcomers on both teams.
"I'm really excited about the women's team," said Harlow. "We have three top skiers and some good depth. The men's side is very young, and that will be more of a challenge. We lost two key guys, but the potential on this year's team is there."
Both Panther teams lost key All-Americans to graduation, Jason Hey and Vinnie DiNapoli for the men and Melissa Caflisch for the women, but Harlow thinks the Panthers have the depth to overcome the losses.
"Jason and Vinnie were our top two guys the last three years," said Harlow, "but at the same time it gives the young guys a chance to step up. Melissa was our number one skier for four years, and we have three people that can take over the top spot."
Leading the group of returnees for the men's squad is sophomore All-American Peter Ostroski (Intervale, N.H./Kennett), who won the conference regular season title last year. He placed in the top five in all 10 regular season races, including a win in the GS, and he earned All-America honors with top six finishes in slalom, GS and combined alpine. Sophomore Travis Nevins (Henniker, N.H./John Stark) also returns after a sixth-place finish in the conference regular season standings last year and a 12th-place in the GS at the nationals.
Other key returnees for PSU include senior captains Seth Bartlett (Silver Lake, N.H./Kennett) and Brad Deitch (New City, N.Y./Clarkstown North) and junior captain Chris Carlucci (Mahopac, N.Y./Mahopac). Harlow is also expecting big things from sophomore transfer Willie Colt (Hanover, N.H./Hanover), who earned All-America honors skiing last year at Castleton.
Junior captain Alyssa Deane (Casper, Wyo.) and sophomore Erin Fletcher (Franconia, N.H./Profile) return to lead the women's squad. Deane earned All-America honors last season with top seven finishes in the slalom, GS and combined, and Fletcher had three top-10 finishes in the regular season and placed 11th in the GS at nationals.
"With the way Alyssa finished last year I think she can have a really good season," said Harlow, "and Erin has improved and should be much better than last year.
Other key returnees for the Panther women include junior Alex Albrecht (Canterbury, N.H./Carrabasset Valley) and senior Katie Van Riper (Temple, Maine/Mt. Abram/Carrabasset Valley). Albrecht was an All-American in the slalom last year and Van Riper is a four-year starter who has eight career top-10 finishes.
Harlow has also been impressed with freshman Kait Pawlak (North Windham, Vt./Green Mountain Union), and indicates that she could be among the top racers.
"I think the women can challenge for the league championship and could finish as well as anyone from the east at the nationals," said Harlow, "and the men's team will have their hands full with Colby-Sawyer, but we'll win our fair share of races and will challenge for the title and hopefully a top finish at nationals."
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