Same alma mater. Same All-America pedigrees. Same goal but different tracks, as two former Colby skiers work to make their dreams come true. For Jenny Lathrop, who left Colby in December 2004, halfway through her junior year, and Warner Nickerson '05, the dream is to compete successfully for the U.S. Ski Team.
Success on lesser circuits earned Lathrop several starts on the World Cup circuit this season--competing with the likes of American Olympians Lindsey Kildow and Julia Mancuso. Nickerson raced in Europe and the U.S. as well, shunting back and forth across the Atlantic on the FIS (International Ski Federation) circuit. He got his first taste of "life at the top" when he was selected for the final open slot at the World Cup race in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in April 2005.
"It was wild to race against the best in the world," Nickerson said. Lathrop, who earned All-America honors in her first year at Colby, in 2002, spent the fall semester of her junior year skiing and studying in New Zealand. When she returned from New Zealand, she went to Colorado and skied well enough to be invited to travel with the U.S. Ski Team for the 2004-2005 season in Europe, Lathrop said. "I was afforded the same opportunities as full-fledged members of the team, so I took Jan Plan off and traveled with the team to get more experience."
Knowing that if she wanted to realize her dream she needed to ski with the U.S. Team, Lathrop made the difficult decision to leave school before the spring semester of 2005. That decision, uncommon among Colby student-athletes, came only after a series of impressive races that caught the eye of the U.S. Ski Team coaches.
Warner Nickerson '05 and Jenny Lathrop
The administration, according to Lathrop, "has been really supportive and understanding of my efforts."
The toughest part of the transition? Missing the Colby experience, which she shared with her twin sister, Abbi '06, who is also a member of the Colby ski team and the first national Division I NCAA champion in the history of the College (see story above). "The most trying part is being away from home for so long and not having my sister there with me," Jenny Lathrop said. Since making the jump to the professional ranks, Lathrop has been climbing the U.S. Ski Team ladder slowly but steadily. She has been touring Europe and North America, racing in every World Cup event that fits into her schedule, with the goal of securing a World Cup spot for next year in slalom. Her first taste of World Cup competition came in Aspen, Colo., on December 11. There she showed enough promise to earn a place traveling with the U.S. "B" team this spring.
Her success comes as little surprise to Colby Alpine Ski Coach Mark Godomsky. "She is naturally a very, very talented skier and was one of the top ten kids in the country when she came here," Godomsky said.
50%#Nickerson's downhill odyssey is more of an uphill climb. Upon graduation last spring, with a double-major in economics and government, the two-time All-American wasn't ready to cease competitive skiing, so he banded together with a group of college graduates and formed the Ski Racing International Academy.
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Sports ShortsIn his second season as WOMEN'S ICE HOCKEY head coach, DAVID VENDITTI was honored as NESCAC Coach of the Year after leading the team to a record number of wins in a single season and a trip to the conference semifinals. Colby finished with a 15-8-1 record after losing to NESCAC champion Middlebury. Forward LAURA ANNING '09 earned conference first-team honors after leading Colby in scoring with 20 goals and 16 assists. Goalie GENEVIEVE TRIGANNE '08 made the NESCAC second team after finishing second in the conference in save percentage (.918). . . . MEN'S ICE HOCKEY finished 15-9-1, and head coach JIM TORTORELLA was honored as Co-NESCAC Coach of the Year for his work with a young squad. . . . In WOMEN'S SWIMMING KELLY NORSWORTHY '08 earned three individual All-America honors, in the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, and 200 individual medley, at the NCAA Division III Championships in Minneapolis. Norsworthy was second in the 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke.
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Unlike Lathrop, with her U.S. Ski Team sponsorship, Nickerson needed to find a way to pay for his travel, equipment, and competition. He did what any savvy Colby economics graduate might do--put together a business plan, set up a Web site, and searched for investors. His site, www.warnernickerson.com, has become a meeting point for those who contribute to his efforts and provides a detailed outline of Nickerson's approach to becoming a member of the U.S. Ski Team.
As a post-college racer, Nickerson's biggest racing opponent at this point may be time, but the 24-year-old New Hampshire native is undaunted.
"My plan is to take the next two years to make the U.S. Ski Team," he said. "Once on the team, all you have to worry about is competing, because there is a staff that takes care of the rest."
Having spent time with ski-racing star and iconoclast Bode Miller last summer in Franconia, N.H., (they work with the same trainer), Nickerson feels that his goal is within reach.
"Warner is a non-stop competitor and has been that way since he arrived at Colby," Godomsky said. "Every bit of what he has accomplished has been earned; no one has really given him anything in this process. He's not the biggest kid or the strongest kid, but his determination and ability to game plan is unmatched."
Their game plans point both skiers toward what would be a dream reunion: the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Abbi Lathrop gets Colby's "first first"
At the NCAA national skiing championships in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, senior Abbi Lathrop won Colby's first-ever Division I championship and first-ever national skiing title, in the giant slalom. That was March 8. Two days later she took seventh in the slalom, giving her All-America honors in both events this year.
Abbi Lathrop '06
Lathrop had the best times in both runs of the GS and the best time in the second run of the slalom. In the GS, her combined time of 2:16.85 edged Denver University's Florence Roujas by a full tenth of a second. Jamie Kingsbury of the University of Vermont, last year's GS champion, came in third.
It was Lathrop's fourth All-American performance in GS and her second in slalom. Her twin sister, Jenny, skied for Colby for two seasons before joining the World Cup circuit. The sisters are daughters of Jeffrey Lathrop '68 of North Conway, N.H., a former Colby skier and Mules ski coach.
Lathrop was the first skier and the fourth athlete in Colby history to win an individual national championship. Others were Todd Coffin '83 (1983 steeplechase), Jamie Brewster '00 (1997, 1998, 2000 hammer throw), and Cindy Pomerleau '97 (1997 heptathlon). Coffin is now men's track coach and Brewster is associate director of admissions. The women's crew won Colby's first team championship, in 2003.