Despite going undefeated in slalom all season, the women’s ski team was a “major” underdog at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association National Championships last week, said Head Coach Michael LeBlanc. But the squad defied the odds and kept its streak going to the very end, winning the slalom team title – Brown’s first national skiing championship.
Though the skiers dominated slalom all season, LeBlanc said the squad did not expect to beat the favorite, Sierra Nevada College, based in Lake Tahoe, Nev. – a prime skiing locale, especially when compared to Providence.
Defeating Sierra Nevada “was sort of the women’s collegiate skiing version of the US beating Russia in the 1980 Olympics,” LeBlanc said. Sierra Nevada edged out the Bears in the giant slalom in a field of 20 schools, but Brown got the best of them in the slalom finals.
Captain Kia Mosenthal ’12 said the team did not feel pressure to keep up its unprecedented winning streak at Nationals.
“We handled the pressure really well and treated the race as any other race,” she said. “We just told ourselves, ‘Stay calm and enjoy it and appreciate the experience.’”
Individually, Mosenthal came in first in the slalom, ahead of the second-place finisher by 2.2 seconds after both runs. Initially, it seemed like Matea Ferk – who competed in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics for Croatia and now skis for Sierra Nevada – was in first after the first run. But after video review, the officials determined that Ferk had straddled a gate and was disqualified.
“It was such a blessing” to finish in first after not having completed her second run last year, Mosenthal said.
Mosenthal is one of the best skiers in slalom nationwide, LeBlanc said. With her first-place finish in slalom and fourth-place finish in giant slalom, Mosenthal is going to be the USCSA representative at US Nationals.
“She basically gets to go and race against the whole (US) national team” as well as against foreign competitors, LeBlanc said. “We haven’t qualified a skier to do that before.”
But Mosenthal was not the only Bear to turn in a strong performance – the underclassmen put up impressive times that propelled the team to the top of the standings. In slalom, Maria Mastanduno ’14 and Emma LeBlanc ’14 came in 12th and 13th place, respectively, out of the 89 skiers who completed both runs.
In giant slalom, LeBlanc came in 10th place, while Kia’s sister, Nika Mosenthal ’15, came in 12th.
The underclassmen “made a huge impact in terms of giving us depth,” Kia Mosenthal said. “It was great having more people this year really contribute to the team.”
The squad’s success at Nationals comes only a year after the team was recommended to be eliminated by the Athletics Review Committee. Immediately after that announcement, the team focused on trying to raise money to keep the program alive, according to Michael LeBlanc. But it also drove the skiers to dominate the slopes to prove they deserved to be a varsity sport, he said.
“Every single kid on the team wanted to prove their worth,” Michael LeBlanc said. “They sure as hell did it. … It meant the world to the program, that’s for sure.”
Kia Mosenthal echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“We proved momentously that we deserve to be with the varsity sports at Brown,” she said. “To come back and then win a national championship and be second overall was the most satisfying experience anyone could hope for. I hope we made a lasting impression.”