In what is shaping up to be a record-shattering season for the Bowdoin nordic ski team, the Polar Bears raced to a third-place overall finish at the Colby Carnival last Saturday. Coming off of a best-ever second-place finish for the men’s team two weeks ago, this third place aggregate result is the highest ever overall team finish for any Bowdoin ski team in its history—and the team expects that there is more to come.
“We’re always trying to get better—whether or not it happens is hard to predict, but we still don’t feel like we’ve hit our ceiling yet,” wrote Head Coach Nathan Alsobrook in an email to the Orient. “Our younger skiers are learning and improving every week, and our seniors are super motivated to go out with a bang, so I hope and think we’ll see a few more home runs before it’s over.”
Although the ski team trains nearly all year round, all of that work culminates in a season that is barely two months long, yielding immense pressure for the athletes to perform in the few chances they have. However, thus far, the Polar Bears have risen to the task, with four skiers already effectively locking up NCAA championship spots with two carnivals left before the NCAA regionals and more racers close in pursuit of the last few slots.
Christian Gostout ’20 had a stellar weekend, leading the men’s team with a seventh-place overall finish, his personal best. Elliot Ketchel ’21 finished ninth, just five seconds behind. On the women’s side, Gabby Vandendries ’21 and Lily Johnston ’20 both broke into the top 20 as well.
“I was racing a little tired, and our skis didn’t feel fantastic … I just didn’t expect it to go super well,” said Gostout. “I think I just made a good pacing plan, and I’m really familiar with that course because we ski it whenever we don’t have snow. So all that played together really well.”
With two regular-season races left to go, maintaining this momentum is the challenge for Bowdoin. Typically, the team starts slower before picking up the pace towards the end of the season and hitting its stride just as NCAA Championships are on the horizon.
“Usually, the first weekend isn’t good, but I think because we did so well the first weekend we have momentum,” said Gostout. “We don’t have to play that waiting game of ‘oh, wait for it, it’ll come.’ We can just go straight into it.”
Despite this current form, the team believes it still has more potential.
“We’re super stoked about [these results] because it’s the middle of the season, and we always get better and we always crush the Middlebury carnival, so we’re super stoked for that,” said Gostout. “I mean, I’m worried [about peaking early], but I don’t think I should be. [Alsobrook’s] training has always worked really well for me in the past.”
Even with NCAA Championships on the horizon, the Polar Bears are keen to keep this momentum going throughout the entirety of the season.
“We’re hoping to have our cake and eat it too,” wrote Alsobrook. “NCAAs is definitely the top priority for our skiers who have put themselves in a strong position to qualify, and we’re adjusting the training accordingly. But we’re not willing to totally sell out these February races by piling on the training load—just a little bump to help [team members] be at their best in March, but not so much that they won’t have a shot at more strong regular season finishes.”
“The training with the whole team all fall has been so fun, and our team chemistry is out of this world right now,” said Gostout.
As the Polar Bears close in on the postseason, hopefully this energy will continue to fuel this record-setting form. Bowdoin returns to action today at the Bates Carnival in Lewiston.