By BOB YORK —
It appears as though there’s no mountain within the borders of New England that the Deerfield Academy boys ski team can’t turn into its very own molehill.
This winter, it was Shawnee Peak in Bridgton, ME, that got cut down to size by the Big Green skiers, as they mastered its terrain to capture the 2014 Class A New England Prep School Athletic Council Alpine Skiing Championships. The title marks the third time in the past four years the Deerfield boys have found gold in “Them Thar Hills,” and the sixth consecutive year they have visited the podium to pick up some form of booty, whether it be gold, silver or bronze.
Although the Deerfield girls team has frequented the medals podium in the past – posting gold-medal performances in 2011 and 2012 as well as a silver medal in 2006 – it returned empty handed this winter. The girls, minus Lauren Stobierski, who spent her senior season competing at a ski academy after winning both Slalom and Giant Slalom crowns the past three years, wound up sixth.
“It was a tremendous experience to be a part of,” said Bill Chaffee, who reached the summit in just his first year as head coach of the Deerfield ski teams. “We knew we had a good team … the question was, just how good. Well, the kids certainly came up with the answer.”
“The key in our minds was that we needed a total team effort to be successful,” added Chaffee, “and that’s exactly what we got … a tremendous effort from everyone.”
Chaffee’s charges finished atop the 15-team boys field with a 62-point total, 31 coming in the Slalom and Giant Slalom events each. Middlesex School was second with 69 points, while Berkshire School placed third with 75 points. Belmont Hill just missed out on a medal, finishing fourth with 77 points.
Over on the girls ledger, Noble and Greenough paced the 11-team field with 49 points, while Berkshire School was second with 56 points and Northfield Mount Hermon School wound up third with 62 points. Deerfield finished the day with 104 points.
Leading the way for the Deerfield boys were Madison Baker (15) and Sam Armstrong (15), as they posted top-10 finishes in both events. With 76 skiers entering the starter’s gate, Baker, who was the recipient of this year’s Douglas Parker Jr. Award, posted a fourth-place finish in the Slalom in a time of 88.54, just 4.19 off the winning pace. He then grabbed a seventh in the Giant Slalom in 100.97. Armstrong, the winner of the Scott Kelnberger ’79 Award, meanwhile placed fifth in the Giant Slalom in 99.34, only 3.41 seconds off the winning pace, and ninth in the Slalom at 91.76.
“It felt really great posting a pair of top-ten finishes, especially in the Giant Slalom, as it hadn’t been my strong point this year,” said Baker. “It felt really great to know that Sam (Armstrong) was right up there too, throughout both races because that really helped set up our victory.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised (about winning the title). I think going into the race our whole team knew we were capable of winning 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 isn’t 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 at the level of competition we were racing in.”
Jack Paul (14) finished 19th in the Giant Slalom at 105.56, while Jean-Pierre Torras (16) was 24th in a time of 107.82. Will Sanford (17), meanwhile, came in 27th at 108.46. Rounding up the Slalom event for Deerfield Torras was 18th in 99.56, while Sanford hit the finish line 24th at 101.24.
“The way that the scoring works in skiing is your top three results in each discipline are added together and the team with the lowest score wins,” explained Armstrong. “Many of the teams were very strong, but had difficulty finishing the courses due to the icy conditions. We were fortunate to have almost everyone not only finish their races, but finish with fast runs and few mistakes and that gave us the edge over the rest of the teams.”
The girls competition saw Alaina Chen (17), winner of this year’s Brooke Gonzalez ’97 Cup, pave the way for the Big Green, as she chalked up a pair of top-ten finishes. She captured a bronze medal in the Giant Slalom with a third-place time of 102.34, only 2.39 off the blue-ribbon effort, while she finished ninth in the Slalom in 102.87.
“The entire team skied well in the championships despite the unusually long courses,” said Chen. “Our team ended up sixth out of 11 teams in Class A … the highest level in prep school skiing … so I think we should feel pretty good about what we accomplished.”
Ashley Cooper (14), who received the Philip H. Ball Jr. Award, finished 16th in the Giant Slalom in 108.76, while Kate French (15) wound up18th in 122.00. French also posted a time of 114.56 in the Slalom, which put her 21st, while Signe Ahl (15) was 37th in both Slalom and Giant Slalom with respective times of 124.58 and 122.00. Ally Edwards (17), meanwhile, wound up 41st in the Giant Slalom at 127.64.
This winter’s final standings of the Mount Institute Ski League found the Big Green boys A-Team sitting atop the eight-team field with 50 points, besting the NMH A squad by a five-point margin. The Deerfield B-Team, meanwhile, finished sixth. The Deerfield girls placed third.
Armstrong paced Deerfield’s A-Team with a second-place finish, as four of its members earned top-10 finishes. Torras was sixth, while Paul and Baker placed sixth and 10th respectively. Sanford was 15th, as Hunter Quigg (16) finished 31st. The B-Team roster featured Reilly Simmons (14), who placed 23rd, as Kyle Burns (14) and Mark DesLauriers (16) wound up 28th and 29th respectively. Yanni Tsandilas (16) was 47th, Fisher Louis (16) was 52nd, Will von Weise (15) was 57th and Xander Xi placed 58th in a field of 75 skiers.
Chen was Deerfield’s leader of the pack in the MISL individual standings, finishing the season with a fourth-place finish. Cooper grabbed the 11th spot, while Edwards wound up 17th. Bea Gari (15) was 22nd, as Ahl finished 25th. Alex Tananbaum (14) and French were 34th and 36th respectively.