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Boys' Alpine Ski Team Wins First Ever State Championship

SJA claimed the school's first ever alpine team title with a five-point victory over Champlain Valley Union at Burke Mountain on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Front row from left, Hugo Hong, Ben Bangs, Rian Fried, and Leo Desrochers. Back row: Coach Dave Eckhardt, Tommy Zschau, Cody van Dine, Camdyn Meigs, Coach Patrick Anderson, and Coach David Loffredo.

From the Caledonian-Record

MOUNTAIN TOPPERS: St. J Boys Fend Off Redhawks, Claim First Alpine Crown

By Stephen Garfield, Sports Writer

March 6, 2018

EAST BURKE — Bombs away.

That's how the St. J Academy boys team skied on Monday and Tuesday, and it resulted in the Hilltoppers' first ever alpine skiing championship.

In combined scoring from the two-day event, the Hilltoppers and Champlain Valley Union crushed the course on Warren's Way at Burke Mountain, with St. J (99 points) edging past the CVU Redhawks (104). Woodstock was a distant third, with 147. Hilltoppers sophomore Hugo Hong ripped the course in 1:30.52, giving him second place among the 81 skiers. Teammate Rian Fried also had a big day, taking fifth place.

It was hardly a done deal as the race came to a close. "It was nerve-wracking. We didn't think we'd won it until the very end," SJ coach David Eckhardt said. "It was a bit of a shock, then elation and joy. The boys really knocked it out of the park."

The bombs-away approach proved risky for many skiers. Mt. Mansfield's Jack Hayden, a regular top-fiver this season, finished out of the running after crashing in his second run. Prolific Harwood skier Connor Woolley also had a DNF (did not finish).

Even for the newly-crowned titlists, there were some casualties. Tommy Zschau crashed on his first run and didn't finish his second. Teammate Camdyn Meigs also didn't finish, but SJA's strong suit – its depth – proved out.

"The depth of our team is our strength," Eckhardt emphasized. Added assistant coach Patrick Anderson, "When one skier had a bad race, another picked him up."

In this case it was the Hilltoppers' Leo Desrochers. "Tommy had crashed, Camdyn [Meigs] had a DNF, and there was a lot of pressure on Leo," Eckhardt said. "He put in a great run" to help keep SJA in it, clocking in at 55 seconds on his second run.

Nobody skied like Hong, however. "Hugo ripped it up on his second run," Eckhardt said, looking at the speedy time of 45.17 seconds. "He's gotten smoother, and more and more consistent during the season."

He spoke equally well of Fried. "Rian stepped up with senior leadership when we really needed it," Eckhardt said. "We're going to miss him, and [classmate] Ben Bangs too."

The team realized it might be onto something "after about the third meet of the season, when the boys started winning," coach Eckhardt noted. "They didn't talk about it much, but they started bonding around that. We have a real solid program now, and there are a bunch of younger guys coming up too."

The girls program shouldn't be overlooked either, he emphasized. Freshman Maggie Anderson followed Monday's fourth-place GS finish taking 13th among the 74 racers in the field. Sophomore Chiara Bachfischer took a spill on her second run on the hardpack course, and ended up 30th.

"The girls were 12th last year, and eighth this year. That was the goal, was to improve," Eckhardt said. The winner, CVU's Becca Provost, nicked Mt. Mansfield's Ella Goetze for the win, while Viva Goetze, who won Monday's GS, was third.

The boys winner, Rutland's Austin Roussel, was all over it, beating Hong by better than three seconds. Roussel, whose brother Dylan won Monday's GS, scorched the course in 42.87 seconds his first run. Only one other skier completed one run in less than 45 seconds.

The town rolled out the red carpet for the Hilltoppers upon their return, with the police and fire departments giving them the treatment and headmaster Tom Lovett greeting them when they arrived on campus.

All trails now lead to the Eastern Regionals, set for Friday and Saturday, March 16-17, at Cannon Mountain, where SJA will be represented by five skiers.

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