Alpine skiing teams anticipate strong 2019 EISA carnival season

Michael Cooper, who competed at NCAAs two years ago, is heathy and ready to lead the Bobcats this season. (File photo by Steve Fuller/flyingpointroad.com)

NEWRY, Maine -- The Bates alpine skiing program begins its 2019 Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association season on Friday, January 11 at the St. Lawrence Carnival and the young Bobcats are already turning in impressive performances heading into the new year.

"The races we compete in now (before the EISA season) are really important because the points our skiers get helps determine their starting position at carnival races," third-year head coach Micaela Holland '11 said. "We have had about 10 races already and so many podium finishes I can't count them all, so that's a good sign!" 

Junior captain Griffin Mueller (West Vail, Colo.) leads the women's team after a terrific first year of collegiate skiing in 2018. Mueller missed the 2017 season due to injury but immediately made an impact last year, qualifying for the NCAA Championships. She finished 22nd in the slalom and 30th in the giant slalom at NCAAs after a carnival season that saw her notch four top-12 finishes in the slalom out of six carnivals, including seventh place at the Colby Carnival and eighth place at Williams. Mueller combined with Bates Nordic skier Kaelyn Woods to earn 23 points at the four-day NCAA championships, good for an 18th-place showing among 23 participating teams.

Sophomore Hannah West (Bend, Ore.) is coming off a strong first season that saw her finish 26th in the EISA circuit on the NCAA Qualifier List. Meanwhile, first-years Tess Coutu (Foster, R.I.) and Daphne James (Sausalito, Calif.) are already making an immediate impact like West did last year. 

"You can expect to see those four women score a lot of carnival points this season," Holland said. "We have a very positive and encouraging team culture which is one of the reasons we are having so much success heading into carnival season." 

For the men, senior captain Michael Cooper (Alta, Calif.) is healthy and ready to go after missing the 2018 carnival season due to injury. Not only will Cooper ski for Bates this season, he will also compete next year as a fifth-year senior. In 2017, Cooper made his first appearance in the NCAA National Collegiate Skiing Championships, becoming Bates' first male alpine skier at NCAAs since 2012. He finished 26th out of 34 competitors in the giant slalom and 29th out of 34 in the slalom. 

"Coop's back and he's stronger than ever," Holland said. "He's skiing really fast so we are thrilled to have him back on campus training with us." 

Junior Tagert Mueller (West Vail, Colo.) returns after finishing 49th in the EISA circuit on the NCAA Qualifier List last year. The Bobcats are also excited about sophomores Calvin Wilson (Canyon Dam, Calif.), Joe Gillis (Branford, Conn.) and Max Schneider (Rottach-Egern, Germany), who have had strong early season results which the team anticipates will translate into carnival success. Wilson finished 41st in the EISA circuit on the NCAA Qualifier List as a first-year and Gillis ranked 61st.    

The young men's team is further bolstered by first-year Arie van Vuuren (Boulder, Colo.) who has earned podium finishes in both the slalom and giant slalom for Bates early in his career. 

The Bobcats welcome back senior Dinos Lefkaritis (Larnaca, Cyprus) who took last year off from Bates to represent Cyprus in the 2018 Winter Olympics. He became the 12th Olympian in Bates College history and the first male alpine skier to qualify for the games. Like Cooper, Lefkaritis will have an additional year of eligibility after this season. 

"He learned a lot of lessons at the Olympics," Holland said. "Since coming back, he's definitely taken on more of a leadership role with our young team. With him having this really life-changing experience, his ability to share the trials and tribulations of competing at such a high-level event is really valuable for the team." 

The Bobcats will host the NCAA East Regional at Sunday River on February 22nd and 23rd. The NCAA Championships are set for March 7 and 9 at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.