After having the 2020-2021 season canceled due to COVID-19, the Rocky Ski Team was itching for a national title. On March 5, the Bears flew to Lake Placid, NY, for the USCSA National Championships. The Bears arrived to defend their title as National Champions, but they knew that the competition from other colleges would be tough.
The first day of competition was Tuesday, March 8. The ladies battled it out in the giant slalom and rail jam, while the boys raced in ski-cross. The first run of the GS saw 139 starters skiing on an icy course that held up for every athlete. At the end of the race, sophomore Hilde Sato took the win for the Battlin’ Bears, followed by Bergitte Varne in 5th, and Sofia Brustia in 9th. These strong finishers allowed the team to finish second only to Sierra Nevada University (SNU). Senior Larissa Saarel and sophomore Emma Hiebert participated in the rail jam, what was supposed to be just a race for fun, but turned out to be a great success! With little experience, the two Lady Bears were able to finish in 5th and 12th place respectively, securing the 3rd spot as a team. It was a great day for the guys as well, earning the ski-cross national champions with junior Jacob Drake finishing in second place, Filip Johansson in 4th, and Ian McCormick in 5th.
The Bears tested themselves in GS for the boys, bringing home a team second place with Alexander Sehlberg finishing in 6th, Gusten Berglund in 7th, and Filip Johansson in 9th. The ladies dominated the ski cross event with Sydney Weaver conquering the national title, Sofia Brustia taking second place, and senior Saarel rounding it out in 5th.
During the third day, the men’s alpine team rested while the girls competed in slalom, finishing once again right behind SNU team, with Sato taking another medal, a bronze one this time, Brustia placing 5th, and Weaver 13th. Yet, the highlight of the day came from the improvised freeski team. The slopestyle event saw Drake taking 16th place, just a step from the finale, while Saarel conquered a much deserved and unexpected national title that, with Hiebert’s 8th position, allowed the team to take second place.
Friday was a “slower” day with just the men’s slalom happening. The men’s results were similar to the women’s and SNU once again took the team title with Rocky coming in second, thanks to Johansson’s 5th place, Berglund in 9th, and senior Oscar Dalmalm in 10th.
The last day of competition started pretty rough with a snowstorm and wind that hit the hill. This did not stop the organization from having the racers competing in the team and individual dual slalom. The six-hour race saw SNU conquering both the male and female titles, with RMC right on their heels in second place.
At the end of the week, the Bears were awarded for combined alpine and freeski. Sato finished 2nd overall, Brustia 5th, and Weaver 11th to round out the women’s alpine. For the men’s alpine overall, Johansson snagged 5th, Berglund 6th, and both teams placed second overall, again, right behind SNU. While on the freeski side Saarel scored first overall, and Hiebert 7th, bringing home the overall freeski national title for the Lady Bears!
Your Battlin Bears landed in Billings with a total of four gold, three silver, and one bronze for the individual medals, plus three first places, nine second places, and a third place as a team.
Even though they did not manage to bring home the overall title for the second year in a row, the trip to New York was pretty positive for the ski team that had the opportunity to challenge and race great skiers and teams, especially the SNU team that is getting ready to upgrade to NCAA level next year. But the highlight of the week for all the bears was celebrating and honoring the seniors, Saarel and Dalmalm, that competed in the last races of their careers. As the two seniors look back at their time at Rocky, Saarel reflects, “All I have to say is joining the ski team was one of the greatest choices I made during my time at Rocky. It’s bittersweet to be closing this chapter but I am so thankful for the memories I’ve made with my teammates and I’ll always be cheering them on.” All Dalmalm had to say was “stay ahead of it, go Bears!”