Ski team qualifies for nationals, women’s team back-to-back regional champions

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Photo by Caroline Burns

Junior Meghan Gillis (pictured) finished in second of 62 racers in Sunday’s slalom at the regional ski competition. (Photo by Caroline Burns ’22)

Caroline McParland, Sports Editor

After their performances at regionals last weekend, both the men’s and women’s ski teams qualified to attend the United States Collegiate ​Ski & Snowboard Association national championships next week. The women’s team won the competition overall in both giant slalom and slalom.

At Bryce Resort in Virginia, the teams brought their best racers to regionals in order to give them the best shot to qualify for nationals. Racers are decided based on the results of the season and their commitment to the team.

While the freestylers were unable to compete in the regional competition, many attended to cheer on their teammates.

“They wanted to be with us regardless if they were competing or not. They care about us and like seeing us do well. That was really special,” Junior Meghan Gillis said.

Freshman Sebastian Bjorkeson said that Lafayette cheered the loudest at the competition.

“You’d hear some cheers when other teams go down, but whenever a Lafayette racer was coming down the course, it was just erupting. Everybody’s just supporting each other so much and it just makes it so much more fun,” Bjorkeson said.

The teams raced the giant slalom on Saturday, where Bjorkeson placed third of 59 individuals. Freshman Charlie Steele placed 20th and junior Sebastian Wallach placed 25th. Overall, the men’s team sat in fifth of 17 teams on the day.

Gillis led the way for the women’s side on Saturday, finishing in fourth of 62 competitors. Burns placed seventh, and freshman Lindsay Correll placed 11th. The women’s team were first overall out of 17 teams who competed on Saturday.

“I actually tore my meniscus about a month ago, so I was definitely really nervous about that,” Gillis said. “I kind of just went into it saying that I was going to try my best and see how it went.”

Senior president Caroline Burns explained that the men’s team was stressed going into Sunday’s competition, as they were in fifth after Saturday and they needed to remain in the top five overall to qualify for nationals.

“We all did a good job of making sure that they were ready to compete and in a good mindset,” Burns said.

Bjorkeson was Lafayette’s top finisher once again in Sunday’s slalom racing. He finished fifth of 61 individuals, while Wallach placed 14th and Steele placed 27th. The men ended up finishing fourth overall of the 17 teams.

Gillis came out on top for Lafayette again in Sunday’s slalom, finishing in second of 62 racers. Burns placed in 10th and Gordon placed 13th. Lafayette’s women’s team won once again, coming in first overall out of 16 total teams.

Burns said that one of her favorite memories from the weekend was when Wallach wore the race suit that was worn by a past president, Fiona Smith ’20. Smith wore this white suit four years ago at the regional championships which were also in Virginia. She ended up falling and getting mud all over the white suit, and it became a running joke. Since the suit was passed on to Wallach, he found it fitting to wear it at regionals and purposely slide into the mud in Smith’s honor.

Burns also recalled the moment when freshman Tess Boyler got her personal best at the competition. 

“Her first race ever was a few weeks ago. When she finished her race in slalom on Sunday she passed the finish line and had this huge grin on her face. She’s been really excited because she’s been improving. She placed forty-six out of sixty-two, which I would say is her personal best,” Burns said.

Both teams along with eight freestylers will head to nationals this weekend to compete during the week. They will compete Monday through Friday in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Whiteface Mountain.

“I think we’re all just looking forward to having this last week together and celebrating our seniors,” Gillis said. “It’s something that we all work really hard for and it’s a unique opportunity.”

Junior Meghan Gillis explained how crucial Burns is to the attitude and success of the team.

“Whether it’s like her skiing ability or her attitude, she is always so positive and really wants everyone to enjoy themselves when we’re on the hill,” Gillis said.