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By Alicia Nemiccolo MacLeay '97
Chris Cogbill '02 arrived at Colby never having skied on a nordic team before, because there was none near his Wisconsin hometown. Though his father gave him pointers and he competed in two major races a year, Cogbill describes his pre-Colby training as self-discovery. "I bought a technique video and watched it," he said. "Then I bought a race video." Cogbill, whose first formal ski training was at Colby, now places in the top 10 in Division 1 nordic races. He is a rarity in both Division I athletics and at Colby.
At one time the alpine and nordic teams consisted of good skiers with varying levels of race experience who came to Colby because they liked other aspects of the College. Now the ski program, under head alpine coach Mark Godomsky and head nordic coach Tracey Theyerl, competes to secure the best and most disciplined athletes that meet Colby's academic requirements. "Everyone wants the same small group of kids," said Godomsky.
Colby's only Division I sport, skiing competes in weekly carnivals against established powerhouses, including Dartmouth and UVM, many of which offer athletic scholarships and employ twice as many full-time coaches. "Sometimes it's a little bit difficult when we're against D1 schools who are using quantities of the most expensive waxes in one weekend that we've allotted for our entire season," said nordic skier Anna Carlson '03.
Godomsky and Theyerl have done whatever it takes to gain exposure among recruiting prospects, whether it's having skiers wear their Colby uniforms and jackets to non-collegiate races or Theyerl racing on her time off. It's working, too. This season included a record second-place Colby finish in men's giant slalom at one carnival and team finishes of seventh at several carnivals, the best in the program's history. This despite the fact that the men's nordic team has only five competitors this season, while teams usually take six to each carnival, with one as a non-scorer.
"In the four years I've been at Colby, the team has gotten a lot better," said alpine co-captain Elizabeth Festa '01."We have a lot more skiers who come from ski academies and a lot of skiers who have been finishing in the top ten to fifteen in races."
"The expectation level is higher now," said Godomsky. More skiers are coming in from competitive programs, having raced at the international level or in Junior Olympics races. Last year Colby sent two alpine skiers to nationals. This year Cogbill and alpine co-captain David Riss '01 qualified for nationals. It will be Riss's third trip to the event.
Riss, who was named MVP as a freshman, sophomore and junior, says the current alpine team is extremely focused. "I've got competition and that's a good thing," he said. "We're skiing fast and that's a result of Mark's recruiting."
"The biggest struggle is competing against established programs," said Godomsky. "When David Riss goes out and wins the second run in GS, that helps. No one's seen Colby do that before." That success means more recruiting possibilities, which mean stronger teams in the future. "It's interesting to see athletes changing their view of you and your school," Riss said."Tracey has done a lot to improve our program," said [added] nordic skier Annie Eisinger '01, citing better training, equipment and recruits"I concern myself with going forward," said Theyerl, whose co-ed team of 13 has eight freshmen. She says she looks for athletes who are organized and willing to put in the time to train intensely year-round. Often Theyerl will pursue skiers who have as much talent as the top prospects but less experience--Cogbill, for example. "In nordic it's about potential."
The team is continuing to surprise competitors and aspires to a top-five ranking. "It's more exciting to be on a team that's up and rising than one that's on a plateau," said Riss. "We're striving for something."
HOW SHOULD WE TEACH?
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A Ray of Hope: Brittany Ray '93 inspires where she found her inspiration
An Education CEO: Robert Furek '65 brings accountability to Hartford public schools
Charting Success: James Verrilli '83 directs charter school turn-around in Newark
Perspectives on Reform: Colby experts discuss reform and the purpose of education
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