This year, the women’s ski teams sent two athletes to the NCAA Championships in Stowe, Vt. Kaelyn Woods ‘20 raced the 5K Individual Freestyle and the 15K Classic on March 6 and 8; Griffin Mueller ‘21 competed in the Slalom on March 9 and placed 28th. Altogether, the Bobcats took home 20th out of 24 scoring teams with 11 points.
Woods put Bates in 16th place after her performance in the 5K Individual Freestyle where she completed the course in 14:42.7, 1.1 seconds ahead of a skier from Bowdoin for 30th place out of 40 athletes. Her performance earned Bates one point as the last scoring place in the race.
In the second day, Woods raced a solid performance of 50:20.5 in the 15K Classic, placing 24th and earning seven points. She was the third skier from a majority Div. III school to finish the race, out competing a Middlebury skier to the line by four seconds.
“I think that the most challenging part of NCAA’s is the competition and trying to juggle how to deal with the stress because of the competition,” Woods said. “[The competition] is always changing…This makes it harder to set goals based on results and what not because it is hard to compare yourself to a completely different field than the previous year.”
Mueller rounded out the Bobcat’s performance at the NCAA’s, earning 28th place in the Slalom and winning three points for Bates. Also a second-year returnee, Mueller knew what she was getting into.
“This time around I was just as excited, but a little more equipped to deal with the excited and happy energy I had going into the week,” she said.
In her first run, Mueller raced down the slopes in a time of 57.19, the 24th fastest first run. In the second run, she slowed down a touch, still managing a relatively even time of 58.80 as the 23rd fastest second run.
“This year NCAA’s was really challenging because I was battling illness,” Mueller said. “[However, it was fun] being there and being able to compete against the best in the country.
As one of two Div. I sports at Bates, skiers must carefully plan their winter semester schedules and balance athletic commitments worse than the average Div. III athlete. Both the Alpine and Nordic Ski teams must commute to practice daily and often travel for competitions on Fridays, placing huge time constraints on skiing Bobcats. Unlike some of their competitors who come from classic Div. I schools, Bates skiers must manage this extra demand with little special support by the school.
“Although stressful at times, the NCAA skiing experience is so much fun and I get to see so many friends that race in different regions of the U.S, so being able to be in one common place and all racing against one another is really fun. The skiing community is really cool and incredibly supportive so being able to compete at the highest level in this really close-knit community is always so rewarding.”
This NCAA’s was Mueller and Wood’s second NCAA appearance in two years. Last year, Mueller competed in the slalom and giant slalom, placing 22nd and 30th. Woods earned 25th in the Classic and 23rd in the Freestyle for a team total of 23 points and 18th place.
“The competition is super elite at this event, so to just be there competing is a huge accomplishment,” Head Nordic Coach Becky Woods said. “I don’t really compare year to year as the competition changes depending on conditions and race courses. Instead, we talk a lot about skiing “your seed” or above. Kaelyn had her best skate race of the year at the event – we’ll take it.”