Steamboat Springs The Colorado Mountain College ski team had an inherent disadvantage last week when competing in the U.S. Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association National Championships, CMC being a two-year institution taking on a group of four-year schools.
But that wasn't the frustrating part, CMC ski coach George Thomas said after the team returned from the five-day event in Sunday River, Maine.
The frustrating part came before the competition even started, when two of the team's top skiers slammed into each other on a training run. The accident virtually ended CMC's hopes at a top-10 finish the day before the event.
"We wanted to do some giant slalom training, but we got there and the weather so was inclement, no training was allowed," Thomas said. "So, we decide to go free skiing and two of our best guys were skiing down a hill and skied into one another."
The accident left the team's top slalom threat, Blake Barnes, with a splint, crutches and a seat on the sidelines.
It got even worse a day later, when Jacob Chiaverotti injured his hip on a competition run.
"Everyone was really excited to go to nationals," Thomas said. "If Blake hadn't been injured and Chiaverotti hadn't gone down in the slalom, we really could have punched in there. But that's ski racing."
As it was, the team rallied to finish 12th in everything: men's slalom, giant slalom and combined, out of 20 teams.
Shoko Tanaka had CMC's best finish of the week, earning second-team all America honors in the giant slalom with a seventh-place finish.
Chiaverotti was 40th in the event and led the team in the slalom, finishing 33rd. Those performances lifted him to 31st in the men's combined.
Jaymes Elkins was 41st in the combined and Will Roske was 56th.
"On the plus side, it was a team effort. The kids who weren't seeded as high managed to stand up, finish the race and get us placing," Thomas said. "Everyone was a little disappointed because finishing in the single digits was definitely possible going into the race, but 12th out of 20 teams is still a pretty good result for a two-year college skiing against four-year schools."
It was a four-spot improvement from last year's 16th-place finish, Thomas said, and a promising sign for the team's future.
"It's a little uncertain, but I have three guys coming back in, and we have had a lot of interest from parties around the country," he said. "The reputation is growing because this was a really solid year from a really solid team.
"It was really a fun group to work with."