Five years ago, the Nordic, or cross country, ski team was just a recreational club. Today, the men’s and women’s teams have slowly climbed their way up to fourth place in the standings of the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference under the leadership of former captains Mari Oye ’11 and Sarah Hill ’11.
The team was founded in the 1970s, but when former two-year captain Oye came to Yale in 2007, they were not competing in any races. Oye and Hill helped revamp the team and registered for a league during their freshman year. The team has been competing in the ECSC ever since, but they are still small and other teams tend to underestimate them.
“Other teams don’t expect us to do so well because we’re such a small team,” Stephanie Wagner ’13 said.
While the men’s team took fourth place at last weekend’s ECSC Divisionals, the women’s team was unable to score because it did not meet the three-skier minimum requirement. The team has six girls that regularly compete, but because of its small size was unable to field a competitive team last weekend. Cornell, meanwhile, had nine girls competing at the competition. Until last weekend, the women’s team was second in the league.
Captain Holly Rippon-Butler ’12 said that each year, a large number of students show interest for the team, but they have had greater difficulty in recruiting people to get on the snow.
“It’s hard to get people to commit people to go away every weekend,” said captain Holly Rippon-Butler ’12.
Captain Stephanie Wagner ’13 says that the team is “kind of like a grab bag” as it is unpredictable to know if interested freshmen have skiing experience. This year, there were two freshmen, Nathaniel Knapp ’14, from Alaska, and Sonja Peterson ’14, from Minnesota, who both skied in high school.
“The future of the team looks strong. The more people from New England, Alaska and Minnesota Yale admits, the stronger we’ll get,” former captain Oye said. “We also love welcoming new skiers to the sport.”
Last year, the women’s team finished in fourth place, qualifying for nationals; a surprise, according to Rippon-Butler. But Wagner said they are on track to do so again this season. Though the women’s team qualified last year for nationals, they were unable to attend because classes were in session. This year, nationals will be held during Yale’s spring break.
“We have a core group of people who want to race every weekend,” said Wagner. “We feel right at home in our division.”
This season, the women’s team is consistently placing second in division. In order to qualify for nationals, the team must place in the top four teams at regionals, which is not much larger than divisionals.
The team does not practice on snow everyday as the closest practice location is about 45 minutes away, but they run or roller skate as a team. Before the season started, some team members travelled to ski outside of Hartford. Other teams in the league, like Cornell, have their own course.
According to Wagner, Yale’s team is “on the smaller size compared to Cornell and Army.” Though many of the larger teams, like Clarkson University and Army have vans, Yale’s team has relied on student cars and Zipcars to travel to competitions.
Still, the captains said they have found a good group of committed skiers.
“It’s really refreshing to have a group of people who love winter,” Wagner said. “It’s a nice escape.”
This weekend, the team will travel to Jericho, Vt. for the regional competition, where there will be three races instead of the typical two events.
“It’s exciting to see the team moving forward,” Rippon-Butler said.
Eleven other colleges are included in the Eastern Collegiate Ski Conference.