LEWISTON, Maine -- Bates junior Michael Cooper might be the ideal captain for a Bobcat men's alpine ski team with five freshmen and four sophomores on a roster of 11 student-athletes.
Cooper (Alta, Calif.) endured a somewhat rocky start to the 2017 Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) carnival circuit before rallying and snagging the first NCAA Championship invitation for a Bates male alpine skier in five years. The exclamation point was a sixth-place finish in the slalom at the Bates Carnival.
After earning the No. 47 NCAA ranking in the East as a first-year athlete, Cooper rose to 19th by the end of his sophomore campaign. He fared respectably well in his nationals debut, too, placing 26th in the men's giant slalom and 29th in the slalom.
Cooper has also come on strong in his summer and preseason training leading into his junior season at Bates. Since the more experienced competitors generally fare the best on the EISA circuit, second-year head coach Micaela Holland '11 believes Cooper has gained knowledge he can impart to the younger members of the team.
"He was younger than most sophomores on the circuit, and he was kind of trying to catch up a little bit at the start of last year, but then he made the NCAAs, which was great," she said in the most recent Bates Bobcast podcast. "He skied over the summer and kept getting better, and he's just on fire right now."
While Cooper has achieved "podium" finishes in FIS races this fall, first-year Maximilian Schneider (Rottach-Egern, Germany) took first place in the U19 field at the end of one FIS run, emerging as one newcomer to watch. Fellow freshman Sasha Cadariu (East Haven, Conn.), Joe Gillis (Branford, Conn.), Matthew Hanus (East Burke, Vt.) and Calvin Wilson (Canyon Dam, Calif.) join sophomores Gavin Chen (Incline Village, Nev.), Ryan Clermont (Lincoln, N.H.), Tagert Mueller (West Vail, Colo.) and Josh Turner (Andover, Mass.) have the makings of a strong squad.
"They really support each other and work hard together, which has been awesome to see," said Holland.
Although Cooper is the only returning alpine skier with NCAA Championship experience, the women's team boasts several athletes who have proven ability to compete among the best in the East.
Senior Sierra Ryder (Orinda, Calif.) ranked 23rd on the EISA circuit in 2017 on the NCAA qualifier list, right on the cusp of an invitation to nationals, as she finished as high as 10th in the slalom at the Dartmouth Carnival. Ryder also ranked 26th as a sophomore and 33rd as a first-year. Senior Hannah Johnson (Incline Village, Nev.) finished as high as 12th place in the slalom at the UNH Carnival and ranked 31st in the EISA overall, after posting a No. 23 ranking as a sophomore. They captain the women's team along with senior Brielle Antonelli (Warwick, N.Y.), who has three top-30 carnival performances in her career.
"They're fired up, they're excited, great leaders, they've definitely helped the women's team step up as well," said Holland of the tri-captains.
Sophomore Griffin Mueller (West Vail, Colo.) is another talent to watch, having missed her first season due to injury. Rounding out the largest women's alpine roster Bates has had since 2008, when Holland was a first-year Bobcat, are sophomores Emma Finfer (Highland Park, Ill.), Annabel Mahon (Toorak, Australia) and Kathleen Smith (Piedmont, Calif.), as well as first-years Sommer Glasgow (Salt Lake City, Utah), Amelia Kaplan (New York, N.Y.) and Hannah West (Bend, Ore.).
The carnival season for Bates alpine teams begins with the Colby Carnival at Sugarloaf Jan. 20-21, a week after the Nordic portion of the carnival begins. Carnival season ends with the NCAA East Regionals Feb. 23-24 at the Middlebury Carnival, followed by the NCAA Championships March 7-10 in Steamboat Springs, Colo.