FRANCONIA, N.H. - Saint Michael's College Alpine skiing sophomore Guillaume Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée Général Ferrié) placed 16th in the giant slalom on Wednesday during the opening day of the NCAA Championship. Grand was among three Purple Knights taking part, joining competitors from NCAA Division I, II and III schools at the Cannon Mountain Ski Area.
Grand made his second career appearance, while junior Mathias Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine) and first-year Anna Willassen (Jar, Norway/Persbråten VGS) both made their NCAA debuts. As a school, Saint Michael's is 14th among 16 teams with 15 points, trailing Bates College by one point for 13th place.
Starting with the No. 18 bib, Grand clocked in at 2:16.57 between a pair of runs, trimming 2.69 seconds off of his opening-run time, after which he still stood 18th. Grand's final 16th-place performance came in a 30-finisher field. Among all skiers from Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) schools, Grand was seventh out of 14. Three of the top five NCAA Championship placements ever by a Purple Knight now belong to the sophomore, as he was ninth in the slalom and 12th in the GS at last year's national meet in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
A school-record-tying contingent of three skiers was rounded out by Grimsrud and Willassen. Willassen wore the No. 4 bib during the GS but did not finish her opening run, while Grimsrud started 33rd and stood 32nd following his first trek, but he did not finish the second run of the day.
Thirty-four men and 34 women are competing in each Alpine race this week, with 16 apiece hailing from the East region. This marks the second consecutive season Saint Michael's has sent three Alpine competitors to the NCAA Championship after multiple skiers had represented the College at the same NCAA Championship only twice before last season, when one Alpine and one Nordic competitor apiece took part in the 1998 and 1999 meets. Neither discipline had ever sent multiple racers to the same national meet prior to last winter.
Nordic events begin tomorrow, and the Alpine competitors return to the hill for the slalom on Friday. The women begin at 9 a.m. before the men start an hour later.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Sophomore Guillaume Grand
That was tough. Anna's first run, she was actually going pretty fast. And then me, I had a big mistake, so that was pretty frustrating because I was skiing pretty well before and after my mistake. I had a pretty good recovery, I could have gone out pretty easily. I don't know exactly what happened, I don't remember because it went so fast. I lost a lot of time, and after a big mistake like that, you can't expect to be in the top 10. And second run, maybe I put a little too much pressure on myself because I wanted to do well, and so I tried to just send it, but at the same time, I sent it not in a good way. I'm not that confident in giant slalom as in slalom, so I'm going to be focused on slalom now. I'm pretty psyched about the slalom. We saw [Director of Athletics Chris Kenny '86, Facilities Director Kara Lowe and Athletic Trainer Chris Jones] - both Chrises! - it was nice to see them, see support from Saint Mike's. I think a lot of people are coming on Friday.
Junior Mathias Grimsrud
On Day 1 at NCAAs...
It was a tough race today. It's not my best discipline, GS. After my injury I haven't really skied enough yet. [Mathias missed all but two carnivals as a first-year and sophomore due to injuries.] So I'm looking forward to slalom on Friday.
On the NCAA Championship...
It's a lot bigger, a lot of good athletes. It's actually a lot of fun because I meet all my friends from [Western U.S. colleges] from Norway. It's just a little bit bigger than a normal carnival, a little more pressure, you just have to think of it as a normal race.
On being there with two teammates...
The bigger the team, the less pressure on you as an individual. And it's great to have a team around you, to travel and live with a great team.
On support from Saint Michael's...
I talked to a lot of guys that said they were coming [on Friday]. To bring people from Saint Mike's to NCAAs, maybe we can show them what we do. We put a lot of time and effort into this sport, so it's fun to show everyone.
First-year Anna Willassen
On Day 1 of NCAAs...
I fell, I kind of hipped out. I was on my inner and got some air then hipped out. We usually use that term because I'm on my inner ski and when I'm falling I'm on my inner hip.
On the NCAA Championship...
First of all, it's really cool to just be here, to qualify here. It's really cool how they have official trainings when we can train together with the West Coast [skiers] and see all the teams together, and compare your skiing with everyone else. I also think it's cool we can try the race hills before the race and actually ski courses on the race hill. My best friend goes to Denver on the West Coast, so it's really cool to meet all my Norwegian friends here in the U.S. It's a lot of Norwegians over on the other side, so it's cool to see everyone again.
On being there with two teammates...
It definitely helps to have a team there, because if you don't do well yourself, it's as important to cheer on your teammates, and if they do well, that doesn't make the disappointment that big. And also, it's nice to have someone to train with and be around the whole time, and I really hope we can make a bigger team next year because I know a lot of the people that didn't make it this year are capable of doing it, and it would be so cool if we were a full team. The whole week is really cool, with official training, with race days and the banquet. It's a really organized week. And it's cool because it's the best skiers from the whole country, it's really high level, and that's really cool to be a part of.
Head Coach Gus MacLeod '02
It was a little disappointing. Anna skied really well and just ended up leaning in. It happens, it's ski racing. It was fairly rough, and Mathias tried skiing it too straight and just got bounced out on one turn and tried to bring it back on the second one and just got bounced further out, and next thing you know he's just way below the gate. A little unfortunate. It was pretty foggy when [Anna started]. She was skiing well, and took some good speed at the bottom of the course, too. She had the potential to be a top-10 contender. But it happens. We'll get ready for the slalom and see what we can do in the slalom. Mathias and Guillaume have potential of being right up there in the slalom, and the way Anna's been skiing the slalom lately, she could definitely surprise a few people and put in a good result. It sounds like we could potentially have a good crowd of supporters, which would be awesome. We will see when Friday comes around. It was great to have Chris, Kara and Chris come down today. I know the athletes really appreciated it. It's nice to see support for the program.