DA Skiiers Race to Gold

By Bob York

Denny Stowe likes to think of himself as “Deerfield Academy’s dean of bus drivers.”

That’s because he earned his license back in 1998 “and nobody’s been driving buses here at Deerfield any longer than that,” said Stowe, whose day job finds him working with the school’s grounds crew.

Stowe’s second job is spent transporting Big Green athletic teams from point A to point B, but it’s getting those athletes from point B back to point A that makes or breaks these bus trips.  It’s on that long and winding road home when you get up close and personal with what the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is all about.

During his 14 years of performing “On the Road Again,” Stowe has made more than his share of return trips to Old Albany Road that seemed to take forever. While on others, home always seemed just around the corner. And it’s those short and sweet versions that earn their way onto this guy’s dean’s list.

Stowe has chauffeured numerous Big Green New England champions such as boys and girls swimming and boys and girls water polo, as well as league champs such as boys lacrosse for a victory lap down Old Main Street. But, until Feb. 16, he’d never driven two New England champs home–at the same time, on the same bus. That’s the day both the Deerfield boys and girls captured gold medals at the New England Prep School Class A Alpine Skiing Championships at Pat’s Peak in Henniker, N.H.

“It was a fun ride home,” said Stowe of the hour and a half trek. “I guess it might have been a bit awkward if one team had won a championship and the other hadn’t. But fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about that.

“I think the girls got a little more excited about the championship than the boys did,” recalled Stowe, “but that’s usually the way it is. The girls always seem to get a little more emotional about the victories and defeats than the boys do. But as we got back into town, everybody on board began singing the school songs.”

There’s one other reason why neither side of the aisle went bonkers on the bus ride home and that, as Stowe aptly pointed out, is because “both these teams are used to winning … finishing first certainly isn’t anything new to them.”

Stepping up to the medals podium after careening down the side of a mountain is what it’s all about at the New England championships, and the Big Green has heard its name called on numerous occasions. The boys team has now medalled its last three times out, with this year’s gold besting two consecutive silver-medal performances. And over the past nine years, the boys have reached the podium seven times and have two gold medals, three silver medals and a pair of bronze medals to show for their efforts.

During that same span of time, the girls squad has earned four medals: three golds and a silver. It has also finished fourth on three occasions to earn the “best of the rest” distinction.

During the regular season, the guys and gals in green owned the Mount Institute Ski League once again. The girls rang up their 11th consecutive championship at Berkshire East ski area this winter, while the boys rebounded from last season’s second-place showing to finish first, giving them seven crowns in the past eight years.

“It was certainly a great day for the Deerfield Academy ski program,” said coach Jodi Tanguay of the school’s first New England team championships since moving up to the Class A level in 2005. “I knew we had both the talent and the depth to win it and from there, it was just a matter of everyone remaining upright throughout the competition.”

And Tanguay need not have worried about this crew maintaining its balance. When the meet concluded, it seemed as though names from the Big Green roster were posted atop all four race categories. For the boys, Deerfield produced three of the top 10 slalom finishers and four of the first 19 in the giant slalom. As for the girls, three of the top 14 slots in the slalom went to Deerfield skiers, while the Big Green really stacked the deck in the giant slalom, with five of the top 18 finishers.

As he has the two previous years, Jack Stobierski (’12), who was this year’s recipient of the Scott Kelnberger ’79 Award for the Best Boy Skier, led the charge for the Deerfield boys with a triple-crown effort. He finished first in the overall standings after placing first in the slalom by a whopping eight-second margin and won the giant slalom by more than two seconds. As a sophomore, Stobierski placed first in the slalom and third in the giant slalom and as a freshman, he wound up third in the giant slalom.

“I felt we could win it all … I felt both (boys and girls) teams could win it all. All we had to do was ski to the best of our ability … and that’s what everyone of us did,” said Stobierski, who is ranked 22nd in the East and 47th nationally in his age group by the United States Ski Association.

“I enjoy competing in both events,” said Stobierski of the slalom and giant slalom, but explained they are two completely different types of races. “The slalom covers a shorter course, with the gates set up very close together so that there’s hardly any time between heading through of one gate and onto the next. It’s like you must always be thinking ahead, because your next move’s going to be on you before you know it.

“To me,” added Stobierski, who was elected co-captain of next year’s team along with Oliver Hopkinson (’12) “the secret of success in this event is pure athleticism … being able to twist and turn through the gates and maintain your balance while doing so.”

As for the giant slalom, “it’s a much longer, faster course, where the gates are set much further apart,” he continued, “and to me, in this kind of race, technique is what you rely on the most.”

Hopkinson finished eighth in the slalom, while Peter Stobierski (’14), Jack’s younger brother, was 10th and Keo Brown (’11) wound up 14th. In the giant slalom, meanwhile, Brown produced a fourth-place finish, while Hopkinson and Reed Horton (’14) crossed the finish line 15th and 19th respectively.

The final overall standings for the girls saw Lauren Stobierski (’14), who received the Brooke Gonzalez ’97 Cup as the Best Girl Skier, led the charge with a first-place finish in the slalom, while Annika Trapness (’13) placed third and Marly Morgus (’12) was 14th.

In the giant slalom, meanwhile, Beth Lawless (’12), who will serve as co-captain of next year’s team along with Morgus, led the pack with a silver medal, as Stobierski and Trapness finished seventh and eighth respectively. Wrapping up the Deerfield contingent were Morgus, who was 14th and Ashley Cooper (’14), who placed 18th.

“Even though we’re a young team, we went into the New England meet with high expectations,” said Lawless of a crew that maintained much of the remnants of a boys and girls team that placed second and fourth respectively in last year’s meet, “and we met them.”

During another highly successful MISL campaign for both groups, the boys packed six skiers into the final top 10 finishers, while the girls boasted seven in the top 20.

Jack and Peter Stobierski finished first and third respectively, as Brown wound up fifth, Hopkins was seventh, Horton was eighth and Alex Berner (’11) rounded out the top 10.

On the girls’ side, Stobierski, Lawless and Trapness were one through three respectively, while Morgus was fifth. Claire Chauvel (’13) was 11th, Charlotte McLaughry (’11), who received the Phillip Ball Jr. Award, was 14th and Ashley Cooper finished 20th.