By Bob York–
Deerfield Academy is once again King of the Hill. The Big Green boys captured the 2014 New England Prep School Athletic Council Class A Alpine Skiing Championships Wednesday at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton, Me. The gold-medal performance marks the third time in the past four years that the Deerfield boys have worn the crown and the sixth consecutive year that they have reached the medals podium. Deerfield’s girls team, meanwhile, wound up sixth in the final standings of an 11-team field.
Over the past decade, Big Green alpine skiers have boasted one of the most dominant boys’ programs in NEPSAC annals. In addition to having won three gold medals in the past four years, the boys have also chalked up a pair of silver medals as well as three bronze medals. Since 1995, Deerfield has missed just two trips to the podium–in 2008, when it placed fourth and in 2007, when it wound up fifth.
Deerfield finished atop the 15-team boys competition, earning 31 points each in both the Slalom and Giant Slalom to finish with 62 points on the day. Middlesex School finished in second place with 69 points, while Berkshire School wound up third with 75 points. Belmont Hill School just missed a podium visit, placing fourth with 77 points.
“It’s a tremendous feeling,” said Bill Chaffee, of his successful debut as the Big Green skiing mentor. “We knew we had a strong boys team, but we also knew it would take a total team effort to come out on top and that’s exactly what we got … a tremendous effort from everyone.”
Madison Baker (15) and Sam Armstrong (15) led the way for the Big Green at this year’s summit meeting that featured 76 skiers in both events. Baker posted a fourth-place finish in the Slalom event with a time of 88.54, just 4.19 off the winning pace, while he was clocked in 100.97 to take seventh in the Giant Slalom. Armstrong, meanwhile, grabbed fifth in the Giant Slalom in 99.34, just 3.41 behind first-place finisher Zach Mooney of Eaglebrook School (95.53) and ninth in the Giant Slalom in 91.76.
“It felt really great posting a pair of top ten finishes, especially in the Giant Slalom, as it hasn’t really been my strong point this year,” said Baker. “But it felt really great to know Sam (Armstrong) was right near me throughout both races which really led to our victory.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised (about winning the title). I think going into the race our whole team knew we were capable of it,” added Baker. “For me, it wasn’t an option, I knew that I needed to get two top ten finishes to put us on the podium This is not to say that I don’t think I had a good run because they were probably some of the best runs I’ve skied. But I think we all knew as a team that we needed some strong runs to win with the level of competition at the race.
“Off the top of my head, I can think of two large keys for our team’s strong performances,” said Baker. “The first reason would be the dynamic of our team. Like I mentioned before, we have a very deep team and the competitive nature of each member pushes the others to do better. While we support one another and try to win as a team, our biggest competition are the other members of our team.
“The second factor is training,” added Baker. “I know for me and many other teammates, training started the moment we got back to school. Whether it was running or working out in the gym, our team was ready to go when ski season came around.
“Another important part of our training came from one of our injured members of the team (Peter Stobierski). Due to him going to every race and videotaping our runs, we could see how to improve.”
Jack Paul (14), who wound up fourth in the Giant Slalom last year, placed 19th in this year’s event in 105.56, while Jean-Pierre Torras (16) pulled in 24th in a time of 107.82. Will Sanford (17), meanwhile, came in 27th at 108.46. Elsewhere in the slalom, Torras wound up 18th at 99.56, while Sanford chalked up a time of 101.24 to place 24th.
“The way the scoring works is your top three results in each discipline are added together and the team with the lowest score wins,” explained Armstong. “Many teams were very strong, but had difficulty finishing the courses due to the icy conditions. We were fortunate to have almost everyone finish with fast runs and with few mistakes and that gave us the edge over the rest of the teams there.
“This was the first time in the last few years that the best skier at NEPSAC did not come from Deerfield,” added Armstrong in reference to the Stobierskis. Lauren, who is spending her senior season competing at The Mount Mansfield Ski Academy in Vermont, had captured both the Slalom and Giant Slalom events during the past three New England Alpine Skiing Championships.
Her brother, Jack, meanwhile, captured both the Slalom and Giant Slalom races back in 2011, as well as the Slalom title during the 2010 championships. Last winter’s Big Green blue-ribbon performances also included Dylan Alvarez, who scored a first-place performance in the boys’ Slalom.
“Because of this,” added Armstrong, who finished sixth in the Giant Slalom and 15th in the Slalom last winter, “we had to rely on our depth to score lower than the other teams. We won the NEPSAC (title) because our third, fourth and fifth skiers were faster than those on other teams.”
The girls’ competition saw Noble and Greenough come away with the crown with 49 points, while Berkshire School was second and Northfield Mount Hermon third with 56 and 62 points respectively. The Big Green collected 104 points on the day to wind up sixth.
Like their male counterparts, the girls posted first-place finishes in 2011 and 2012, as well as a silver-medal showing in 2006. They have also chalked up a trio of close calls, posting a fourth-place finish in 2005 and back-to-back near misses in 2009 and 2010, when they finished a mere two points behind NMH.
Alaina Chen (17) paved the way to the finish line in both events for the Deerfield girls as she earned a pair of top-ten finishes. She picked up a bronze medal for her efficiency in the Giant Slalom with a third-place time of 102.34, just 2.39 off the winning pace, while she wound up ninth in the Slalom in 102.87.
“The whole girls team skied well in the championships despite the unusually long courses,” said Chen. “Our team ended up sixth overall out of 11 teams in the highest division of prep school skiing.
“Back home in Tahoe, ski racing was all about individual results, so being part of the Deerfield team has been a very different experience for me,” added Chen. “At Deerfield, each individual’s finish is important because it contributes to the team standings. It always feels great to cross the finish line after a clean run and I’m thrilled with my top ten finishes in the Giant Slalom and Slalom races and enjoyed cheering on the other girls as they skied through the course.”
Ashley Cooper (14) came in 16th in the Giant Slalom at 108.76, while Kate French (15) was right on her heels in 18th spot with a clocking of 122.00. French also posted a time of 114.56 in the Slalom, which was good enough to finish 21st, while Signe Ahl (15) was 37th in both the Slalom (124.58) and Giant Slalom (122.00). Alley Edwards (17), meanwhile, placed 41st in the Giant Slalom at 127.64.