INDIANAPOLIS – Eleven members of the University of New Hampshire skiing team have been selected to compete in the 2013 National Collegiate Men's and Women's Skiing Championships, which are being hosted by Middlebury College from March 6-9.
The UNH women's Nordic ski team will be represented by a full three-member contingent of senior co-captains Anya Caldwell Bean (Wolfeboro, N.H.) and Liz Guiney (Park City, Utah) along with sophomore Annika Taylor (Truckee, Calif.). Senior co-captain Erik Lindgren (Pitea, Sweden) and his sophomore brother Per Lindgren (Pitea, Sweden) will represent the Wildcat men's Nordic ski team at the Rikert Touring Center.
The Wildcat men's alpine team NCAA competitors will be senior captain Taylor Vest-Burton (Breckenridge, Colo.), junior Sam Coffey (Snowmass, Colo.) and sophomore Coley Oliver (Salt Lake City, Utah), while the women's alpine team sends senior Catherine Blanchard (Eastman, Quebec), junior Jenna Kantor (East Burke, Vt.) and freshman Randa Teschner (Petawawa, Ontario) to the slopes at Middlebury College Snow Bowl.
UNH is led by 31st-year Nordic coach and 26th-year ski program coordinator Cory Schwartz and sixth-year alpine head coach Brian Blank. UNH has posted 23 top-10 NCAA finishes during Schwartz's tenure, including 10th place in the 2012 NCAAs at Montana State University.
Caldwell Bean, who competed at the 2010 NCAAs at the University of Colorado, returns to the national championships for the first time in three years as the sixth-ranked Nordic skier in the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA). The native of Wolfeboro, N.H., is ranked fourth in freestyle technique and 17th in classic racing. The All-East Second Team skier posted back-to-back second-place finishes in 15K free at the St. Lawrence Carnival (Jan. 19) and the Colby Carnival (Jan. 27); her top classic result of the season was seventh in the 5K classic at Colby on Jan. 26.
Guiney, a three-time member of the All-East Second Team, will compete in the NCAAs for the third time in her career. After missing the season's first two carnivals to compete at the U23 World Championships for the United States Ski Team (Jan. 21-27), Guiney came back with a flourish at the UVM Carnival, taking fourth in the 5K free and fifth in the 10K classic. The two-time UNH Nordic team co-captain capped her EISA career with a pair of team-leading sixth-place finishes at Bates (NCAA Regionals) in the 5K classic and 10K free last weekend. Guiney is ranked 10th in the region in free, classic and overall.
"It's amazing what seniors try to do and can achieve in that atmosphere," Schwartz said. "They know it's the last time they're putting on the bib and the race suit, so you'll see a really good effort."
Taylor, the Wildcats' sole Nordic member of the All-East First Team, will join the senior duo. The sophomore, who is EISA's fourth-ranked free technique skier and sixth-ranked classical skier, is No. 4 overall in the East. Taylor garnered the EISA Female Nordic Skier of the Week honor Jan. 30 after racing to her first career victory in the Colby Carnival 15K freestyle Jan. 26, one day after taking second place in the 5K classic; she ignited the Wildcats to victories in both races and amassed five top-10s during the carnival season.
Erik Lindgren makes it back-to-back berths in the NCAAs as the East's No. 19 men's Nordic skier. The 2012 team MVP carries EISA's No. 14 ranking in classic racing and No. 29 in freestyle competition. Lindgren notched a pair of individual top 10s this season, including ninth in the 10K Classic at Vermont (Feb. 3) and 10th place in the 10K classic at Colby (Jan. 26).
Per Lindgren will make his first NCAA Championship appearance after edging his older brother for the East's No. 18 ranking. The younger Lindgren boasts of a No. 13 ranking in classic races, headlined by a seventh-place finish in the 10K classic at Colby, and he is 22nd in free technique, with a season-best finish of 13th in the 10K free at UVM (Feb. 2).
"For results you hate to put that pressure on, but we would love to see a top-8; All-American is a good status for any of these skiers to have," Schwartz said. "But when it comes to the end, you want them to come back to the wax tables just happy with their races. If we can keep it as simple as that, sometimes the results do come."
Elizabeth Izzo (Lake Placid, N.Y.), whose victory in the 3K prologue free at St. Lawrence on Jan. 19 was the Wildcats' first Nordic individual triumph since Kate Underwood won the 10K free at Williams in 2004, also qualified for the NCAAs; the junior, who led all UNH Nordic skiers with and 18th-place finish at last season's NCAA 15K classic race at Montana State, was left out due to the NCAA's three-skier limit mandate. Izzo was ranked 13th in the East, with a No. 11 free ranking and a No. 16 classical ranking.
Vest-Burton, a three-time NCAA qualifier, returns to the championships for the second year in a row. The 2012 UNH alpine MVP punched his ticket to the championships on the strength of a No. 11 ranking in EISA, including eighth in giant slalom and 16th in slalom. Vest-Burton finished the year by notching top-5 finishes in both the GS (fourth) and SL (sixth) at last weekend's EISA Championships, hosted by Bates College. The senior's other top-10 GS finishes occurred at UVM (fifth, Jan. 11) and St. Lawrence (seventh, Jan. 18), and he added an eighth-place SL finish Feb. 15 at Middlebury.
Coffey qualifies for the NCAAs for the third straight season, but the 2011 All-America Second Teamer will be making only his second appearance at the championships after failing to be selected as one of New Hampshire's three competitors last season. Coffey responded by earning the alpine squad's only All-East First Team berth in 2013. The East's fifth-ranked giant slalom skier and seventh-ranked slalom skier is EISA's overall No. 5 alpine male. Coffey, who finished eighth in SL at the 2011 NCAAs (hosted by Vermont), registered six top-10 finishes in GS and five top-10s in SL, highlighted by a pair of second-place finishes at the UVM Carnival on Jan. 11-12; he was subsequently named the EISA Male Alpine Skier of the Week for his UVM performance.
Oliver, like Coffey, was a victim of the numbers game in 2012 as an NCAA qualifier who was unable to compete due to the deep Wildcats' three-skier limit. Buoyed by a No. 6 ranking on the NCAA qualifier list, the All-East Second Team skier will get his opportunity this season. Oliver recorded five top-10 results, including three top-5 finishes in slalom, which earned him the No. 5 ranking in that discipline. The sophomore notched a career-best second place in SL at the Middlebury Carnival.
Blanchard makes her second NCAA Championship appearance (2011) and qualifies for the third straight season. The senior is No. 15 among women's NCAA qualifiers in the East, which includes a No. 11 ranking in SL and a No. 14 ranking in GS. Blanchard earned points in seven races, highlighted by top-10s in both the season-opening giant slalom (seventh) and slalom (fifth) races at UVM, which kick-started her run of six consecutive top-10 results at the outset of the carnival campaign. That fifth-place result marked a season best.
Kantor returns to the NCAAs for the second year in a row on the heels of a No. 13 ranking among qualifiers. The junior, who was the East's ninth-ranked GS skier, earned top-10s in three of her last four giant slalom races, including a season-best third place at Middlebury and, most recently, sixth place at last weekend's EISAs. Kantor's top SL placement was 17th at Colby.
Teschner, the lone freshman among the Wildcat NCAA competitors, came into her own down the stretch and captured the alpine team's only race victory of the season in giant slalom at Middlebury. The East's No. 9 NCAA qualifier tallied fifth place in SL at Middlebury and followed up with fourth place in slalom last weekend at Bates.
"A podium is reasonable for any of our skiers competing and cracking the top-5 as a team would be unbelievable," Blank said. "But, really, if everyone can just go and ski the way they can, I'll be happy with that."
Men's alpine skier Kris Hopkins (North Andover, Mass.) and women's alpine skier Marie-Elaine Lepine (Mont-Tremblant, Quebec) also qualified for the NCAAs, but neither will compete due to the three-skier limit. Hopkins, a junior, was ranked 19th among East qualifiers and had a couple of top-10s in GS: seventh at UVM and ninth at Dartmouth (Feb. 8). Lepine, last year's alpine team MVP and the East's 16th-ranked qualifier, collected three top-10s, including a pair at Colby (fifth, GS; ninth SL) in qualifying for the NCAAs for the fourth straight year. This will be the first time she will not compete.
"You have athletes who have worked hard all year, have good results, are good teammates and you have to tell them that you qualified, but you're not going," Blank said. "It's probably the hardest thing I have to do as a coach here."
NCAA Championship Nordic events will be held at Rikert Nordic Center. The men's 10K and women's 5K classic races will take place March 7, while the women's 15K and men's 20K free races are slated for March 9. Alpine events will run at Middlebury College Snow Bowl; the men's and women's giant slaloms will be held March 6, with the men's and women's slaloms conducted March 8.