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Currents: kings and queens of the mountains

Ski Teams Return with National Championship, All-American Honors

There are a lot of reasons to take Route 40 out of Denver – there's the promise of guest ranches and Rocky Mountain National Park's stunning scenery waiting up mountain roads, for example – but the Colby-Sawyer men's and women's ski teams headed West with one purpose in mind: to take Winter Park Resort by storm.

When the Colorado sun set on the U.S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association National Championship competition on March 7, after five days of intense ski action, the Chargers men's and women's ski teams wrapped up one of the best seasons in college history. The men's team won the 2009 USCSA Championship with a third-place finish in the giant slalom and a second-place finish in the slalom - a remarkable achievement that marks the first ever national ski championship for Colby-Sawyer.

The women's ski team was a force to be reckoned with on the slopes, with its third best USCSA National Championship performance ever. The Chargers finished the competition in third place overall after finishing third in both the giant slalom and slalom events.

We Are the Champions

“To be the men's overall champions is very impressive – the competition at the national level is deep and strong,” says Head Men's & Women's Alpine Ski Coach Garrett Lashar. “Teams like Sierra Nevada, Westminster and Rocky Mountain College are very experienced and talented - not to mention Plymouth State, who gave us trouble all year long. But it is very special to come out on top.”

The men's team began the week by competing in the giant slalom, enjoying mild weather that still provided great skiing. Senior Travis Plass (Claverack, N.Y.) led the team with a third place finish in a combined time of 1:58.38. Plass earned a nod to the All-American First Team for his top-five finish.

The team placed third overall after the top three individual times were taken to calculate the standings. Sierra Nevada and Westminster continued to show they are two of the best programs in the nation with a first and second place finish, respectively. The Chargers just missed the silver medal, finishing only .03 seconds behind Westminster.

The Lawless brothers had two solid runs and finished in seventh and eighth place overall. Ryan Lawless (Charlemont, Mass.) clocked in at 1:59.12 while Jeremy Lawless (Charlemont, Mass.) finished right behind Ryan at 1:59.64. The first-year brothers earned Second Team All-American honors for their finishes. Sophomore Andrew Smith (Okemos, Mich.) placed 29th overall in a time of 2:06.19. Freshman Joe Atwood (Scarborough, Maine) rounded out the Colby-Sawyer competitors with a 51st place finish at 2:11.74.

After a solid finish in the giant slalom, the Chargers fixed their sights on a national championship heading into the slalom. The team finished second in the slalom event and won the title ahead of Sierra Nevada and Westminster.

Leading the way for Colby-Sawyer in the slalom was Jeremy Lawless, who finished fifth at 1:38.70. The top-five finish earned him First Team All-American honors.

Freshman Shawn Dunstan (Sinking Spring, Pa.) came in 14th overall with a time of 1:43.35 and earned Second Team All-American honors.

“Shawn Dunstan reinjured his ankle, which he broke this fall, a week before our Regional Championships,” says Coach Lashar. “We kept him off snow and brought him to Colorado in hopes he might be healthy enough in time to race. The giant slalom went by and he was not ready and by the time the slalom came, it had been two weeks since Shawn even trained.

"We threw him on the start order knowing he wasn't a 100 percent and would be racing in pain. From starting 86th, he skied to 14th place, earning him Second Team Slalom All-American honors. We found out just a few days ago that Shawn was racing with two broken bones in his ankle. He really stepped up for his team and had a large part in helping us earn the overall title.”

Travis Plass had the third fastest time for the Chargers with 1:50.15. He placed 32nd overall.

“Travis Plass really carried the men to the top of the podium,” says Coach Lashar. “After finishing third in the giant slalom, Trav had a great shot at the overall and a trip to U.S. Nationals. Finishing 2nd after one run of slalom, it looked like all he needed to do was come down clean and we had the title and Trav had the trip.

"Unfortunately, a small mishap in the second run forced him to have to hike, and he finished 32nd. But without Travis, the team would not have finished second that day or stayed in the running for the overall. He still did earn a Second Team Overall All-American award, and while I know Travis wanted to compete at U.S. Nationals, I also know he wouldn't trade the Team Overall Title for that chance.”

Joe Atwood placed 51st at 2:02.82, while Ryan Lawless was unable to finish his second run.

Jeremy Lawless earned First Team All-American accolades, and Travis Plass earned Second Team All-American honors for their individual combined performances throughout the championship.

The Women Finish a Strong Third

The Chargers started off the competition with a strong third-place finish in the giant slalom, positioning them closely behind Westminster and Sierra Nevada. Sophomore Danielle Shannon (Conway, N.H.) blew past the field of 105 racers to win the Individual Giant Slalom National Championship by 3.59 seconds. She stole the show as soon as she left the starting gate, finishing with a combined time of 2:05 flat with the nearest competitor clocking in at 2:08.59. For her superb efforts, Shannon earned First Team All-American accolades.

“It was very exciting to start the week of competition with Danielle winning the giant slalom race. To win any race is very difficult, but with the talent in the women's field and the amount she won by, I was blown away,” says Coach Lashar.

Sophomore Victoria Canelas (Easton, N.H.) finished at 2:13.17 and placed 16th overall. Placing 29th overall with a time of 2:16.72 was sophomore Anna Hosmer (Ovid, N.Y.) to round out the Colby-Sawyer top three. Junior Lauren D'Allessandro (Kingston, Mass.) finished 73rd with a time of 2:40.60, while sophomore Michele Spear (Sodus Point, N.Y.) was unable to finish her second run.

D'Allessandro, an Exercise Science major who's been skiing for 14 years, says she was fortunate to compete for her team, though she doesn't feel she skied her best in Colorado. “I fell both runs, but I am thankful I was able to be out there on such a special occasion,” she says. “I enjoyed being out there and rooting for my teammates who had such success, both men and women. We are all very close, and have a fun time no matter what we do.”

The slalom portion of the competition was nearly a repeat of the giant slalom. Once again, the Chargers came away with a third-place finish behind Westminster and Sierra Nevada, two teams which boast many international athletes.

Danielle Shannon led the Chargers with a fifth overall finish with a time of 1:26.13. With a top-five finish, Shannon earned a nod as a First Team All-American for the fourth time in two seasons.

“After her fifth place in the slalom and leading her team to the podium each day, I knew Danielle would be in the running for the individual overall title. She just missed finishing second, but she was the Overall American Champion,” says Coach Lashar.

Sophomore Anna Hosmer was the second fastest Charger in the slalom with a time of 1:28.43. With the 13th place finish, Anna becomes a Second Team All-American.

“Not only did Anna finish 13th, but she really came through for us in the giant slalom,” says Coach Lashar. “She was the alternate and was put on the start order last minute because Kellie Tingle was battling the flu. Anna does not rattle easily, and she skied very well.”

Tingle, who had to watch from the sidelines as her teammates competed, says it was great just to be able to watch the team and be part of such a huge event. "Everyone did so well and I'm so proud of them," she says. "The men had some races during the season that didn't show how good they actually are. It's great that they were able to finish so well at such an important race."

Sophomore Michele Spear rounded out the top three finishers for the Chargers. She clocked in at 1:29.44 for a 19th place finish. Freshman Cecilie Andvord (Norway) finished 33rd at 1:32.87, while sophomore Victoria Canelas placed 39th with a time of 1:34.32 to round out the Colby-Sawyer competitors.

For the second consecutive season, Danielle Shannon finished in the top-five in the Women's Alpine Individual Combined results, making her a First Team All-American. Anna Hosmer earned Second Team All-American honors with a combined finish of 14th place.

In addition to their performances on the mountain throughout the season, Danielle Shannon and junior Kellie Tingle (Thomaston, Conn.) were named Academic All-Americans.

Danielle Shannon was the individual Giant Slalom National Champion, which resulted in her selection for participation in the U.S. Alpine National Championships. Last season, senior Allyson Newell (Bethlehem, N.H.) became the first person in Colby-Sawyer alpine ski racing history to qualify for the U.S. Alpine National Championships as the top combined American finisher at the USCSA National Championships in Bethel, Maine. They are the only two Colby-Sawyer skiers to qualify for this event in team history.

“Earning the berth to U.S. Alpine National Championships is a huge honor,” says Coach Lashar, of the event that is essentially a trial to qualify for the U.S. Ski Team. “It is the largest, highest level of competition in the country - she will be competing against U.S. Ski Team Members, top NCAA athletes, some of the best junior skiers in the country, and some unbelievable international skiers.”

D'Allesandro and her teammates stayed in nearby condominiums, where they enjoyed the camaraderie of travelling and competing together.

“All the teams we ski with during our regular season hung out. Those who knew people on western teams introduced us, and it was nice to get to know new teams as well as see some familiar faces," she says. “But I would have to say the best memory of the teams' time in Colorado was the awards banquet on the last night. It was awesome to see all our teammates up on stage receiving their awards.

"The guys did a great job not only individually but as a team. They seemed to put it together out west and they deserve to be National champs! And Danielle, she had an awesome season and was a huge asset to our team. She deserves to be the individual who gets to compete in the U.S National Championships!”

Tingle agrees, saying, "She skied so well all season, I couldn't imagine anyone else going."

Coach Lashar Brings Energy, Experience

Garrett Lashar has been the head alpine coach at Colby-Sawyer College since 2007. He came to New London from Carrabassett Valley Academy in Carrabassett, Maine, where he was the men's alpine coach.

“Coach Lashar brings a tremendous amount of energy and expertise to our nationally ranked alpine ski program,” Athletic Director Debi Field McGrath said when he joined the coaching staff.

Lashar was a four-year racer at Plymouth State University (2000-04) in New Hampshire. He was a team captain for his junior and senior seasons, and helped lead Plymouth to a second-place finish at the 2004 U.S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSSA) National Championships, just ahead of Colby-Sawyer.

“While I knew our skiers matched up with any team in the country, it does take a little luck and a few things to go your way to be in the running for the overall,” says Coach Lashar, reflecting on his teams' accomplishments. “It is very rare that an eastern team accomplishes this. UMASS pulled it off last year, and I am thrilled that the title stays in the East two years in a row.”

Campus-wide Celebration

To honor the ski teams, their coach and all those who supported them in this outstanding season, a reception will be held March 20 at 2 p.m. in Wheeler Hall in the Ware Campus Center. Light refreshments will be served, and all are invited to attend and congratulate the athletes.

- Kate Dunlop Seamans and Ryan Emerson, March 2009