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PSU Ski Team looking for another strong season in 2011

Panthers begin new era under coach Andrew Gannon

              PLYMOUTH, N.H. – A new era for the Plymouth State University alpine ski team officially begins this weekend (Jan. 7-8) when the Panthers open the 2011 collegiate racing season at the Colby-Sawyer College Carnival at Mount Sunapee (N.H.)

            The men’s and women’s teams will race in the giant slalom on both Friday and Saturday at Sunapee, with each skier taking two runs each day.  It is the first of five regular season weekends of racing this winter in the MacConnell Division of the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference, with five slalom and five giant slalom events filling out the schedule.

PSU Alpine Ski Racing Season Preview 2011
  Head Coach Andrew Gannon

              This weekend’s races mark the debut of new Panther head coach Andrew Gannon, who joined the PSU staff last summer.  A former head coach at Colby-Sawyer from 1997-2003, Gannon spent the past seven years as the head coach of the Alyeska Ski Club in Alaska.  He has retained the services of long-time assistant Dave Gyger on the Panther staff.

            After races at Cranmore Mountain (N.H.) the following weekend (Jan. 14-15), PSU will host the Plymouth State Winter Carnival on Jan. 22-23 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 in the MacConnell Division advance to the U.S. Collegiate Snowsport Association’s Eastern Regional Championships on Feb. 19-20 at Waterville Valley. The top five teams at that event advance to the USCSA National Championships on March 8-12, at Sun Valley, Idaho.

2011 Panther Skiing Outlook

            Both Panther squads are coming off successful campaigns in 2010 and are looking for big seasons in 2011.  The PSU men captured eight of the 10 regular season races last year en route to the MacConnell Division title, swept the slalom and GS to earn the Eastern Regional championship and skied to a third-place finish at the national championships; the women captured the regular season championship for the first time in a decade, won the GS at the Eastern Regionals, and finished fourth overall at both the regional and national championships.

            PSU returns its top four racers on the men’s team, who all placed in the top five in the combined at the Eastern Regionals last year.  The Panther women welcome back the Eastern Regional combined champion and two other top starters who will be joined by an outstanding group of newcomers.

            “Our men have three of the top ski racers in the country, who can match up with any other team,” said Gannon.  “We should be one of the favorites to win both the regional and national championships.  Our women’s team should be equally as strong as last year, if not better.”

            Leading the group of returnees on the men’s side is senior Peter Ostroski (Intervale, N.H./Kennett) and sophomores Chris Beadon (Ridgefield, Conn./Stratton Mountain School) and Parker Spear (Sodus Point, N.Y./Sodus Central).  Ostroski is a nine-time All-American and two-time Eastern Regional champion; Beadon shared the Eastern Regional championship with Ostroski last winter and earned three All-America honors; and Spear, who was All-Regional and one spot away from All-America last year, has been competing on an even level with the other two this winter, according to Gannon.

            “Given what I’ve seen so far, those three are as strong as any trio anywhere,” said Gannon.  “And Parker is really skiing well.  The results in preseason races have shown it.  They are really ready to go, and they’ve exceeded my expectations as to their abilities and what I anticipated.”

            The Panthers also have strong depth, with Travis Nevins (Henniker, N.H./John Stark) and Austin Nevins (Henniker, N.H./John Stark) looking for big senior seasons.  Travis has been a top-five finisher at the regionals the past two years, and Austin has consistently finished in the top 15 in his career.  “They are equally as talented as anyone on our team,” said Gannon, “and have the ability to ski as fast as anyone, especially at slalom.”

            Gannon says seniors Tyler Bailey (West Hurley, N.Y./Onteora) and Joseph Healey (Fitchburg, Mass./Lunenburg) are also key returnees and should be solid contributors to the team.  Junior Tom Sampson (Plymouth, N.H./Plymouth Reg./Waterville Valley) has been a pleasant surprise and could make an impact, according to Gannon.

            Sophomore Martina Ryberg (Stockholm, Sweden) returns to lead the Panther women after a terrific rookie season that included four regular season wins, regional championships in slalom, GS and combined, and top three finishes at the nationals in slalom, GS and combined.

            “Martina has been skiing great in the early season races,” said Gannon.  “She will again be one of the top skiers in the country.  I’m also very excited about our group of newcomers; we’ve got four new freshman skiers who should really improve our team.”

            Gannon is particularly excited about freshman Marley Pawlak (West Dover, Vt./Stratton Mountain School), who is one of the top-ranked juniors in ski racing.  She joins her older cousin, Panther junior co-captain Kait Pawlak (North Windham, Vt./Green Mountain Union), on the team.

            “I expect Marley will be one of the top skiers on the mountain this winter,” said Gannon, “and I believe Kait will get back to where she was as a freshman, when she was a three-time All-American.”

            The other top newcomers who Gannon expects to contribute are Leigh Anne Connors (Lake Placid, N.Y./Northwood School), Kali St. Laurent (Manchester, N.H./Central), and Catherine Masson (East Stroudsburg, Pa./National Sports Academy (N.Y.). Junior Katherine Goller (Williston, Vt./Champlain Union) is also as talented as anyone, according to Gannon, and should be a solid racer. 

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