Women’s ski team places second overall

Paul Grens

The Kent State ski and snowboard teams were found roaming the hillside last weekend, competing against veteran schools such as Ohio State, John Carroll, Toledo, and Cincinnati.

The Flashes competed in the slalom races Saturday and the giant slalom Sunday at Boston Mills.

The Kent State women’s ski team placed second overall – behind Ohio State – through the efforts of Erin Snelson, Andrea Burkhart, Laurie Allen and Abie McLaughlin. At the awards ceremony Sunday, McLaughlin was presented with the third-place medal for the women’s giant slalom.

The men’s ski team took fourth place overall with consistent runs by Jonathan Middleton, Zach Boivin and Jason Popik.

The fourth-place finish came despite an 11-member Kent State team that was competing against teams such as Toledo, which has about 30 members, John Carroll, which has about 40, and Ohio State, which has more than 100.

One factor that contributes to Ohio State being so highly competitive is it receives a considerable amount of funding from the university and can take advantage of highly discounted season passes on their home turf, Snow Trails, in Mansfield, said Allen, the team captain.

On the other hand, the smaller Kent State team gets a $10 discount on lift tickets at Boston Mills/Brandywine for practice or racing, and its members pay their own race fees.

Kent State had nine members on the slopes Saturday and eight Sunday because men’s snowboarder Scott Gross had to withdraw due to illness. Skier Maggie Hill also was not competing because of a torn ACL, and snowboarder Coleman Caster is currently out with a fractured elbow.

Allen said to even place overall in an event, the team must have at least three members in each race. The women’s team has five skiers total, but only four competed last weekend. The men’s squad has the minimum.

With team numbers that low, any error such as a missed gate or a fall can mean a potentially devastating time addition to the team’s total for each specific event, which is calculated by adding the top three times.

With regard to snowboarders, Kent State has only one female competitor and two males this season. Overall team awards are not given, which means that individual placing is their only possibility of glory. With Gross unavailable Sunday, the entire snowboard burden was left up to Amanda Biddlestone, who competed in her first weekend of racing ever.

“I’m really proud of her. I can’t wait to see what she can do,” Allen said of the team’s recent acquisition.

Biddlestone would have placed third in Sunday’s giant slalom event but suffered a time penalty because of a missed gate in her first race. While she was afforded a re-run, the standing penalty was crippling to her time.

Snow conditions also were challenging last weekend due to recent temperatures in the 40s and 50s. On Saturday night and Sunday morning, Boston Mills was able to add 3 inches to its 30-inch base, but with temperatures approaching the mid-40s Sunday, it quickly packed to a sheer surface.

“It is basically a sheet of ice,” added Allen between races, “but it’s better than yesterday.”

A lot of racers were going down on some of the tighter turns, which can be frustrating when every run counts, but, overall, the mood around the finish line was upbeat and friendly. Spectators and team members alike cheered the racers as they shot across the finish line and skidded to a stop on the short, slippery base of the run, some of them even going clean over the edge and into the fence.

Next weekend, the Kent State team is headed to Ohio State’s home course, Snow Trails Ski Resort, to compete for the Ohio Governors Cup. The following weekend, the team will be wrapping up the season at Brandywine, where the “Senior Race” will be held. This is a special post-race event for seniors and non-returning team members to make their final run any way they like: in bikinis, gorilla suits, skivvies, ballerina outfits and even the occasional tribute to Jimi Hendrix: flaming skis.

Anyone interested in joining the ski and snowboard team next year should contact team captain Laurie Allen at [email protected].

Contact sports correspondent Paul Grens at [email protected]