Sports

Women’s skiing proves national caliber, grabs third

Squad uses key rookie performances to overcome minor setbacks at the nationals

By
Sports Editor
Monday, March 17, 2014

Riding an undefeated regular season, the skiing team captured third overall at the United States Collegiate Skiing Association National Championships over the weekend. Powered by first-years at the Wilmington, N.Y., tournament, the Bears raced to the best national finish of any Brown varsity team this year.

Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., edged Sierra Nevada College from Incline Village, Nev., for the tournament crown, but Bruno was the toast of the East. Cornell’s eighth-place finish marked the only other Ivy League team to finish in the top 10.

Bruno improved on the sixth-place finish it garnered at Nationals last year, but team members were not entirely satisfied with the performance.

“We had mixed feelings,” said Ali Gunesch ’17. “We were obviously happy to come out third, but we know there were times we could have done better.”

In each of the championship’s two events — slalom and giant slalom — all skiers were given two runs that combined for one total individual time. Each team’s fastest three skiers combined individual times to form a total team time for an event. Rocky Mountain and Sierra Nevada claimed the top two spots in both events.

The Bears finished third in the giant slalom with a team time of 6 minutes, 31.65 seconds — 10 seconds faster than fourth-place University of British Columbia.

St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., ousted Bruno for third place in the slalom event, but the Bears’ team time of 5:20.60 barely held on to fourth place, edging British Columbia by 0.22 seconds.

First-years Gunesch and Natalie Pearl ’17 emerged as Brown’s tournament stars. Pearl sparkled in the giant slalom with runs of 1:04.21 and 1:03.25 to notch third overall. The rookie coupled that performance with a 15th-place finish in the slalom, earning sixth in the individual competition at her first crack at Nationals.

“Skiing is the type of sport where you can be competitive right away,” Pearl said, adding that she wasn’t surprised by the first-years’ impact.

Gunesch finished on her classmate’s heels with a 10th-place showing in the giant slalom, only two seconds off Pearl’s pace. But Gunesch did most of her damage in the slalom. After a 52.69-second first run placed her in a modest 29th place, the first-year turned in a blistering 51.81-second run to climb all the way to 11th, Bruno’s top finish in the event.

Pearl called Gunesch’s second slalom run one of the tournament’s best.

“I had made a big mistake and wasn’t happy after my first run,” Gunesch said. “I was really fired up to put a good performance down for my team.”

Fellow first-year Eugenia Kronenburg ’17 contributed Brown’s third-fastest time in the slalom with 1:50.43, earning 25th place. In the giant slalom, Amanda Engelhardt ’15 posted a 20th-place finish that rounded out Bruno’s team time.

Engelhardt has been a team leader all season and hoisted the individual trophy at the regional tournament, but she was dealt a setback on the second run of the slalom. Engelhardt had won the event in her last three tournaments entering Nationals, and the junior looked poised to compete for the title after a promising first run landed her in third place. Racing aggressively to catch the leaders on her second run, Engelhardt was overturned by a rough patch of snow and could not finish the run.

Emma LeBlanc ’14 lost a ski on one of her runs, a sour note in her final national competition. Mishaps by Engelhardt and LeBlanc were detrimental to the team’s overall morale, Pearl said. But she added that it is unlikely the squad would have jumped Rocky Mountain or Sierra Nevada even without the problems.

Few Brown varsity teams ever come close enough to sniff a national title, and the women’s skiing team’s mixed reactions to a third-place finish attest to the squad’s high caliber.

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  • Miggy Greene

    Well that’s great, congratulations to them! I think it’s a worth if they’ll have a ski vacation? Hihi..