COLCHESTER, Vt. - Student-athletes have come from far and wide to join the Saint Michael's College Alpine skiing team in recent years, and this season finds the squad at its apex in terms of geographic diversity, with five international student-athletes and four Americans from west of the Mississippi River comprising a good portion of the 2016 roster.
"With our men's team being so deep," said sixth-year head coach Gus MacLeod '02, "and then our women's team really getting there this year with what I've seen training-wise, with them combined I think we should be top five every weekend on the Alpine side." MacLeod is joined by fourth-year assistant coach Nick Stagers and second-year assistant Jim Grimsley, and they have seen an increase in success coincide with an influx of European skiers joining the program.
"It always seems to happen, you get one fast one in, and all of a sudden people start looking at your program a little more," said MacLeod. "That really happened when we got Carl-Oscar Bredengen '14 and Fredrik Sandell '15 from Norway, then [senior] Brad Farrell (West Windsor, Vt./Sharon Academy) came in. All of a sudden you had a good, solid three-man training group, and that brought the level up of some of the other guys that were here, too; it kind of snowballs."
The men's team returns such talented racers as Farrell, who narrowly missed qualifying for his second straight NCAA Championship last year but did take part in the U.S. Alpine Championship, while first-years Danny Duffy (Warren, Vt./Green Mountain Valley School) and Guillaume Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée Général Ferrié) have both competed with their respective national teams in the United States and France. The brother duo of sophomore Mathias Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine) and first-year Torjus Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine) increases the number of Norwegians in the program to four in the past three years. Mathias missed last winter due to injury.
"The men have a top-six group that is extremely solid, and we even have Nos. 7, 8 and 9 that are right there, too, so it's going to be a battle every week to see who gets to go to the carnival," said MacLeod, who can take six men and six women to each Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) carnival. "Monday and Tuesday time trial days are going to be very intense for the student-athletes. That will be one of my hardest jobs every week, saying who's going to the next carnival and who's not."
In the absence of two of their team's top skiers last season, now-sophomores Ella Dorval Hall (Newburyport, Mass./Gould Academy) and Meggane Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée des métiers Ambroise Croizat) - Guillaume's younger sister - had most of the women's squad's top finishes. Seniors Nicole Cordingley (Litchfield, N.H./Campbell) and Willow Smith (Bradford, Vt./Oxbow) are both back after missing 2015 due to injuries, with Cordingley looking to build upon the success that made her the team's top skier in 2014, which she capped by competing at that year's U.S. Alpine Championships. Smith joins Farrell as a team captain.
"I think the women are really going to push each other," said the head coach, "and I think Meggane's going to push Ella. Unfortunately we haven't had any giant slalom training to really see where everybody is in the GS, but the slalom's coming along. Nicole's fast, and others are coming along. I expect a strong training group on the women's side, too; they should be battling back and forth, and that's just going to make the group as a whole faster."
To MacLeod, a successful season will mean at least one Purple Knight continues his or her season beyond the EISA Championship, as the Alpine program has sent a competitor to six of the last seven NCAA Championships, including the last four. However, dating back to when its first Alpine competitor went to NCAAs in 1988, Saint Michael's has never had multiple Alpine skiers take part in the same NCAA Championship. "If we don't at least have one again this year, then I'll think I'm doing something seriously wrong," said MacLeod.
The EISA carnival season begins in Maine at Bates College and Colby College on consecutive weekends in January before meets at the University of Vermont, Dartmouth College and Williams College lead up to the season-ending Middlebury College Carnival on Feb. 26-27, will also be contested as the EISA Championship and the NCAA East Regional Championship. Select competitors advance to the NCAA Championship in Steamboat Springs, Colo., on March 9-12.
- Nicole Cordingley (Litchfield, N.H./Campbell), women's team | missed 2015 due to injury | team's top finisher 8 times in 2014
- Brad Farrell (West Windsor, Vt./Sharon Academy), men's team | captain | top-15 10 times | 2014 NCAA qualifier
- Mary Joyce (Long Beach, N.Y./Sacred Heart Academy), women's team | scored in 6 events
- Kevin Krone (Copper Mountain, Colo./Summit), men's team | top-20 twice
- Willow Smith (Bradford, Vt./Oxbow), women's team | captain | missed 2015 due to injury | scored in 3 events in 2014
- Cam Furrer (Wolcott, Vt./Mount Mansfield Winter Academy), men's team | missed 2015 due to injury | scored in GS during only 2014 carnival
- Abigail Hotaling (Fabius, N.Y./Fabius-Pompey), women's team | scored in 2 events
- Shane Love (North Conway, N.H./Gould Academy), men's team | competed at 4 carnivals
- Molly Carolan (Minneapolis, Minn./Southwest), women's team | competed at 2 carnivals
- Ryan Collopy (Holliston, Mass./Mount Mansfield Winter Academy), men's team | did not compete
- Ella Dorval Hall (Newburyport, Mass./Gould Academy), women's team | team's top finisher 5 times
- Alicia Fairbrothers (White River Junction, Vt./Kimball Union Academy), women's team | did not compete
- Meggane Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée des métiers Ambroise Croizat), women's team | top-25 4 times
- Mathias Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine), men's team | missed season due to injury | Torjus Grimsrud's brother
- Alex Mohbat (Beirut, Lebanon/Sagesse), men's team | competed at 2 carnivals
- Jessica Tidd (Olympic Valley, Calif./North Tahoe), women's team | competed at 3 carnivals
- Molly Van Deursen (North Conway, N.H./Kennett), women's team | competed at 5 carnivals
- Lexie Alexopoulos (Manchester Center, Vt./Burr & Burton Academy), women's team
- Danny Duffy (Warren, Vt./Green Mountain Valley School), men's team | member of U.S. Development Team in 2014
- Guillaume Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée Général Ferrié), men's team | member of French national team from 2011 to 2013 | Meggane Grand's brother
- Torjus Grimsrud (Stabekk, Norway/Donski Alpine), men's team | Mathias Grimsrud's brother
- Pat McDermott (North Andover, Mass./Saint John's Prep), men's team
- Tristan McInnis (Holladay, Utah/Rowland Hall), men's team
- Katie Miller (Mercersburg, Pa./Mercersburg Academy), women's team
- Katie Zilka (Saratoga Springs, N.Y./Queensbury), women's team