STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Dartmouth senior Brian McLaughlin became the first Big Green skier in 19 years to win the NCAA title in the giant slalom, while sophomore teammate Tanguy Nef finished second to lead their team to the lead after the first day at the NCAA Skiing Championships at Mount Werner in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. But the women’s alpine team suffered falls on the second run by two of its three skiers, dropping Dartmouth from the lead into fifth with 96.5 points while three teams were separated by just five points at the top of the standings — Vermont (134), host Colorado (130) and Denver (129).
The weather could not possibly have cooperated more than it did today with clear blue skies and a stable, firm course. Each of the three Big Green’s men’s skiers were among the first eight to make their first run, beginning with Woolson up fifth. His time of 55.61 seconds left him behind the first four skiers, but McLaughlin hit the slopes next and came through with a strong time of 54.37 seconds, good for third at the moment. When Nef launched two skiers later, he slid right behind McLaughlin in fourth in 54.73 seconds. Twenty-six more skiers came after the trio, but only one beat out McLaughlin and another pushed past Nef, leaving the duo fourth and sixth, respectively, while Woolson tied for 22nd.
Starting in reverse order of finish on the second run, Woolson coaxed a nearly identical time of 55.77 seconds to complete his race with a combined time of 1:51.38, leaving him second behind Vermont’s Sandy Vietze, who had a fantastic second run of 54.74 seconds. Other skiers would pass them both, though Woolson would move up six spots into 16th by the end of the race, but it wasn’t until Denver’s Jett Seymour — who was 11th after the first trip down — ripped off a 55.38-second run that someone would overtake Vietze.
Seymour’s top combined time survived the next two skiers, but not Max Roeisland of Vermont. When Nef stepped into the chute for his second attempt, Roeisland was the man to beat. Nef proceeded to rip off the best time of the afternoon in 54.68 seconds to jump into the lead with a time of 1:49.41. Colorado’s David Ketterer was up next, and he needed a full second more to navigate the course, leaving him well back of Nef.
McLaughlin’s turn was next, and he did exactly what he needed to do, boasting the third-best time on the second run in 54.83 seconds to overtake his teammate with a time of 1:49.22. While the pair were guaranteed a top-five finish for spots on the All-America First Team, three skiers with better times on their first run were still to come, beginning with Ola Johansen of the host Colorado Buffaloes. But Johansen could not catch the Big Green pair, settling for the third step on the podium, and the final two skiers both went off course and failed to finish, leaving McLaughlin and Nef atop the heap.
Dartmouth won the event as a team as McLaughlin and Nef earned first-team All-America honors, totaling 92 points to beat out host Colorado by 10 while Vermont finished third with 63.
“The first run was OK, but the guys felt a little off,” men’s alpine coach Peter Dodge said after the race. “But the second time down, Brian and Tanguy both made little mistakes early, then put the hammer down and really got after it. Their times on that second run put a lot of pressure on the skiers that were ahead of them, and it really paid off.”
The women followed the men as the temperature warmed under the sunny skies, softening the course a bit, but it still held up very well. First up for the Big Green was sophomore Stephanie Currie, the lone Dartmouth alpine skier making her NCAA debut. Her nerves did not show as she deftly slid down the slopes in 54.54 seconds, which was good for sixth when the first run concluded. Senior Foreste Peterson could not catch Currie, settling for 11th in 54.72 seconds, while junior Alexa Dlouhy sat in 25th at 55.99 seconds.
The second time down turned out to be disastrous as both Peterson and Currie fell on the upper half of the course, while Dlouhy could not make up any ground, settling for a tie for 26th in 1:57.15, earning 4.5 points for the team total.
The three skiers to step on the podium were separated by just 0.06 seconds with Denver’s Amelia Smart taking the gold with her combined time of 1:53.21, New Mexico’s Katharine Irwin the silver (1:53.25) and Vermont’s Paula Moltzan the bronze (1:53.27). All three Denver skiers finishing among the top 11 to win the event with 83 points, leaving New Mexico second (74) and Vermont third (71).
The championships continue on Thursday at Howelsen hill with the cross country classical races. The women launch their 5K at 9 a.m. (MT)/11 a.m. (ET), and the men begin their 10K at 11 a.m. (MT)/1 p.m. (ET).
Notes: The last Big Green champion in the giant slalom was Dave Viele, who won back-to-back titles in 1998-99 … the last alpine crown of any kind was won by Karl Johnson in the slalom in 2006, the last of five straight individual titles in the event for Dartmouth skiers … the last Big Green individual champion in any event was Patrick Caldwell in the 10K Freestyle three years ago.