Kings of the Hill

By BOB YORK

Deerfield Academy is King of the Hill–still!

For the third consecutive year and for the fifth time in the past six seasons, the Big Green boys have captured the New England Prep School Athletic Council Class A Alpine Skiing Championship.

Although this winter’s summit meeting took place on Shawnee Peak, in Bridgton, Me., the medals podium had a distinctly closer-to-home look to it. On the top tier, Deerfield earned the gold medal following a 53-point effort. The silver medal went to Northfield Mount Hermon School of Gill, which closed with 58 points, while Berkshire School of Sheffield made it a western Mass. threesome by earning the bronze medal with 59 points. Noble and Greenough School won the girls competition. St. Paul’s School and Berkshire finished second and third respectively, while Deerfield wound up ninth.

“We were confident we had a chance to win it,” said coach Bill Chaffee, whose boys teams have now produced gold during all three of his seasons as the Big Green mentor. “Alpine skiing is a very unpredictable sport, however. We race five skiers and only your top three finishers count, so, if somebody should fall, somebody else should miss a gate, while somebody else just has a bad day, you’re out of the running.

“Fortunately, everyone remained upright and either met or exceeded their expectations,” added Chaffee, who is aided by assistant coaches Marc Dancer ‘79 and Emma Coffin. “That’s what you need to be successful in a meet such as this. There’s a lot of great skiers out there attending New England prep schools and being totally focused on the job at hand is the only way you have a chance of winning a New England championship … and that’s exactly what these kids did.”

Individually, Jack Cobb ’19 led the charge for Deerfield, finishing third in the Slalom and fourth in the Giant Slalom. The effort sparked the Big Green to a commanding seven-point lead over both NMH and Berkshire. It was a lead that would shrink, but never disappear, as Deerfield went on to place third in the Giant Slalom, two points shy of NMH and one behind Berkshire.

“I had no clue I’d do this well,” said Cobb of his prep school debut, but his resume says otherwise. Last winter, while attending the Stratton Mountain School, Cobb finished second in the Under-16 U.S. Nationals and also chalked up the title of Vermont State Champion in the Under-16 category.

“We knew it would take a big team effort to pull off this victory and fortunately, everyone was on their game and everything fell into place,” said Cobb. “The secret to success in a meet such as this is to ski fast but at the same time, stay within yourself … stay in control.”

Sevrin Sarachek ’17 wound up eighth in the Slalom and 11th in the Giant Slalom, while his twin brother, Griffin ’17, was 12th in the Slalom and 19th in the Giant Slalom. Garrett Alexander ’19 wound up 15th in the GS, as Jean-Pierre Torras ’16, the lone member of the Big Green who was a participant in all three consecutive team championships, was 26th and Bill Sanford placed 55th in the Slalom event.

“We felt pretty confident we could come away with a victory,” said Sevrin Sarachek, who was a part of last year’s title team, “but we also knew that if we were to be successful, we’d all have to come through with our best efforts of the season. We knew, on paper at least, there were one or two teams that were better than us, so we went in with the mindset of skiing smart and fast.”

As for Griffin Sarachek, he too played a key roll in earning his second straight New England crown, “and it’s just awesome to think that this program has now won three titles in a row and five of the past six … it just doesn’t get much better than that.

“Going in, I definitely felt as though we were among the underdogs,” added Griffin, “but in the end, we all came through. It was an extremely close competition. In fact, I think the final standings weren’t decided until the last skier had crossed the finish line. I guess that’s what made it so memorable, though … just one mistake and we could have been out of it entirely.”

This marked the eighth straight year that the Deerfield boys have made their way from the finish line to the podium rather than to the bus–and the 10th time in the past 12 years. That haul includes five gold medals, two silver medals and three bronze medals.

Nicole Piispanen ’16 paced Deerfield during the girls competition by finishing 11th in the Slalom in a time of 101.89, while Carolyn Melvin ’18 was 30th in 112.52. Ally Edwards ’17 was next in line at 40th with a time of 128.25. In the Giant Slalom, Melvin finished 24th at 87.05, while Piispanen was 30th in 87.86. Anna Scott ’18 and Edwards followed at 47th and 52nd in respective times of 95.68 and 103.12.

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