Peak competition: Ski club travels to Oregon for Nationals

The Lafayette Ski Club. (Photo Courtesy of Sydney Burton ’19)

The Lafayette ski club took off for spring break a week early, but not to relax on a beach with the sun shining. Instead, they went to a snowy Oregon ski mountain to compete nationally.

After qualifying earlier in the semester, members of the ski club traveled to Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon to compete in USCSA National Championships. Senior snowboarder Colin Gallagher and junior snowboarder Misty Earisman competed in snowboard events. Freshman skier Marie Bucklin (Full disclosure: Bucklin is the The Lafayette’s co-design director) represented Lafayette in the women’s freeski events.

In the alpine skiing events for men, sophomores Chris Burns, Charlie Kelly and Drew Carleton, along with senior Tim Garrett and junior Paul Polk raced.

“Overall, you’re excited,” Polk said. “It’s the highest level you can get in the sport. Like the World Series, nowhere to go beyond it. Everyone’s just excited to be there.”

It was a new experience for the team, as many of the members are used to skiing on eastern mountains. However, two years ago juniors Sydney Burton and Kendall Sangster traveled to Mt. Bachelor to compete in nationals alpine events when they were freshmen at Lafayette.

“We had to travel this year,” Polk said. “So I think we all learned that it’s definitely easier when you don’t have to travel across the country, but it was just an amazing experience racing on the west coast. It’s a whole different type of snow.”

Another big difference between Mt. Bachelor and the mountains where the club is used to competing is the elevation.

“It’s at a much higher elevation,” Polk said. “When you’re up that high, it has an effect on your lungs. When you’re competing, there’s noticeably less oxygen there.”

In the USCSA Men’s Alpine National Championships, the team finished 14th out of 20 in the Giant Slalom, and 15th out of 20 in the Slalom.

“They went as well as we could have asked, given the nature of the event,” Polk said. “I definitely think the course was different from what we’re used to seeing, but we still did the best we could. It was definitely a really good season. Everyone showed a lot of improvement. We’re happy to be finished, but in a month or two, we’ll probably be looking forward to next season.”

In addition to the alpine events, Polk, Burns, Garrett and Carleton competed in men’s skier-cross. As a team, Lafayette placed seventh out of 27 in the Skiercross event. Burns came in 15th place.

Gallagher placed 32nd out of 79 in boardercross, and 46th out of 63 in Giant Slalom. Earismen placed 18th out of 41.

For the women’s alpine events, the team of senior Olivia Erdman, sophomore Megan O’Hare, Burton and Sangster raced.

The team earned 18th place out of 20 in the Giant Slalom and Slalom USCSA Women’s Alpine National Championships. Erdman and Bucklin teamed up to earn a 7th place out of 19 in the Skiercross Championship, placing 14th and 23rd (respectively) out of 48.

“I think that the team did well,” said Erdman. “We were up against some incredibly good teams, and individuals, and conditions weren’t optimal. Overall I think everyone held their own and ripped it up…The great thing about being on a team is that everyone is competing for the common good of the team. Everyone is incredibly supportive of each other when they do well, or not as well as they had hoped. I think everyone went out there in tough conditions and longer, tougher courses than we are used to and gave it their all.”

For Erdman, it was her final event as a member of the Lafayette Ski Club.

“It was definitely a really bittersweet moment finishing my last race,” she said. “I have had so many great memories over the last 16 years of racing, and many of them have been over the last four years with such an amazing group of people. I am really going to miss the sport, and all of the people I have met on the team along the way. I know they are going to kick ass next year and I am going to be rooting for them from wherever I am.”

Polk will return with the club for one more season during his senior year.

“I’m looking forward to another great year,” Polk said. “Meeting new people and spending my last year with another great group of people. It’ll be my last year, so I’m kinda sad about that. Skiing is a big part of my time at Lafayette. Overall, I had a lot of great experiences and made a lot of great friends.”

About AJ Traub

AJ Traub '20 is the sports editor of The Lafayette. He studies geology and French.

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