Plymouth State to open ski racing season

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - With winter in full swing, the Plymouth State University alpine ski teams are gearing up to begin the 2005 racing season.

The Panther squads will make their season debuts this weekend at the UMass Winter Carnival at Berkshire East Mountain in Western Massachusetts.  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 Saturday-Sunday (Jan. 22-23) at Waterville Valley (N.H.)

PSU will have five regular season weekends this season of slalom and giant slalom events 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. 26-27 at Waterville Valley, where the top finishers qualify for the USCSA National Championships on Mar. 9-12 at Brundage Mountain in McCall, Idaho.

While relatively unknown, PSU's ski teams have enjoyed perennial success under 18th-year head coach Kim Bownes and 10th-year assistant Dave Gyger, who have both earned Conference Coach of the Year Awards.  Both Panther squads finished in the top three at last year's Eastern Regionals, and both finished in the top five in the combined alpine at the USCSA National Championships.

  2005 Panther Skiing Outlook

  Bownes welcomes back seven veterans from last year's men's team, including four of the top five skiers, while the women have five of the top six back from their unit. The coach says the teams should be in for another strong season.

"We have a lot of returning depth on both the men's and women's sides," says Bownes.  "Our guys tied for second at regionals and took second at nationals, so they have the experience, too.  I look for a strong season from them.  The women will have to overcome the loss of three-year All-America Whitney Swaffield, but we have more depth than ever had.  We were skiing very well at the end of last season, when we placed third at regionals and fifth at nationals, and I look for that to continue this year."

 Leading the Panther men's team is the All-American duo of sophomore Topher Harlow (North Conway, N.H.) and senior co-captain Tyler Barlow (South Burlington, Vt.) They took turns leading PSU during the 2004 season and both earned All-America honors.  Harlow had seven top-five finishes in nine regular season races, and finished second in the combined at the regionals and eighth at nationals.  Barlow also had seven top-five finishes and is a six-time All-America.

Other key returnees for the Panther men include senior co-captain Chad Demetry (Francestown, N.H.) and junior Skip Bartlett (Silver Lake, N.H.), who finished 11th and 13th in the regular season individual rankings and earned valuable experience in the slalom at regionals and nationals.  Junior Matt Prendergast (Westminster, Mass.) was also a reliable starter who placed seventh at regionals and 18th at nationals in the giant slalom.

The other returning veterans including junior starter Bill Halberstadt (Concord, N.H.) and senior Joey Miller (Auburn, Maine).  The newcomers are freshmen Jason Hey (Northboro, Mass.), Emile Mennin (Stone Ridge, N.Y.) and John Brule (Northboro, Mass.)

The women's team has a strong nucleus of returnees, led by the junior trio of Chantelle Heroux (Cooperstown, N.Y.), co-captain Kristy Hoch (China, Maine), and Kelsey Real (Lanesboro, Mass.).  They have several years each of excellent ski racing experience and Bownes is looking for strong seasons from them this winter.

"They should be the leaders of the team this year," said Bownes.  "We have as much depth as we've ever had, and it's nice to have three solid veterans like that at the top of the line-up."

Senior co-captain Jess Bouchard (Temple, Maine) has continued to improve and should help the team, and sophomore Amelia Hough (Gloucester, Mass.) is looking to build on a respectable freshman season.  Sophomore Sarah MacNeilage (Milford, N.H.) is the only other returnee.

Bownes is excited about a strong group of newcomers that includes junior transfer Katie Grabek (Redding, Cal.) and freshmen Melissa Caflisch (Clymer, N.Y./Northwood School), Meghann McKenney (Hubbardston, Mass.), Kara Marvelli (Franconia, N.H.) and Ashley Clark (North Woodstock, N.H.)

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