Yale’s club teams do not often compete against varsity squads from other universities. But when they do, the Bulldogs sometimes take their opponents by surprise.
Yale’s Alpine ski team is one such surprising squad.
Following a consistently strong season, the men of the ski team qualified for Eastern Collegiate Skiing Conference regional competition for the second straight season. The Bulldogs will travel to Waterville Valley, N.H., Feb. 25-26 for a two-day bout against the best skiers of the Northeast — from some of the top varsity programs in the nation.
Yale’s Alpine ski team consists of both men and women skiers competing in both slalom and giant slalom races. Ten men and 10 women compete in each of the five weekend races during the short season, which runs through January and February. The Bulldogs took runs at places like Mad River Glen and Killington, both in Vermont.
In typical season races, team finishes are based on the combined times of the top five men or the top three women. With their depth and consistency, the men routinely placed five skiers in the top tier of the field, allowing them to stay near the top of the divisional standings and putting them in position to earn a regional bid.
“One factor contributing to the team’s success was the mini-rivalries among the skiers,” the women’s top skier Amy Mechur ’01 said of the men’s squad.
Despite concern after a shaky performance at Pico Feb. 3-4, the Bulldogs finished third in the nine-school McBrine Division of the United States Collegiate Snowsport Association, qualifying them for the next round of competition.
“Given the limitations that our team has as a club sport — it was [heart] that really pushed the guys over the edge this year,” Mechur said.
But the men’s team’s better half was not so fortunate this year.
The women’s team hit a rough spot in the middle of the season and was not able to recover. Mechur said it was difficult to attribute the team’s trouble to anything in particular.
The Bulldogs narrowly missed the divisional third-place finish that would have extended their season an extra week. Although the women advanced to regionals last year, they failed to duplicate that feat this season.
“We were really, really close [to qualifying], and I think that’s the hardest part about it,” Mechur said.
Mechur, the women’s most consistent downhiller, placed in the top 10 in all but one of her races this season. But it wasn’t enough to earn the Elis a regional bid.
Eric Shelov ’01, the men’s team’s top skier, paralleled Mechur’s excellence all season. Shelov hopes to continue his breakout season this weekend.
The Bulldogs will look to Shelov, Serge Grossman ’03, Nick Maier ’03 and captain Will Ralph ’02 as they take on the regional competition at Waterville Valley.
But this weekend will showcase some perennial powerhouses in Alpine skiing — mostly varsity squads from schools like Boston College and Plymouth State College — making Yale’s shot at qualifying for nationals slim.
“The team will be facing kids with three personal coaches who spend three days a week on the slopes,” Mechur said.
Regardless of this weekend’s outcome, the sons of Eli are very proud of their accomplishment.
“Our goal for the season is really to get [to regionals],” Shelov said.