WALLA WALLA,  Wash. – Tim Bak and Liza Allen, a pair of sophomores from the mountains of Vermont, will assume the “veteran” roles when the Whitman College alpine ski teams hit the slopes for another season in early January at a series of races in Alaska.

      Liza Allen
       Tim Bak

“Our traveling team, both on the men’s and women’s side, consists of one sophomore and three first-year skiers,” notes alpine coach Tom Olson.

“We’re still a very, very young team, but we’re going to be better and a lot deeper than we were a year ago.”

“We don’t have much in the way of collegiate experience, but we’re thankful that we’ve got Tim and Liza back with a year under their belts,” Olson adds.

“They both had top-30 finishes last season and they know what it takes to compete at this level. With the talent we have with our first-year skiers, there’s a good chance we can have more than two skiers in the top 30 this season, which is one of our team goals.”

Whitman is the only NCAA Div. III (non-athletic scholarship) school that competes in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA). The ski conference includes several NCAA Div. I schools – the universities of  Colorado, Utah, Denver, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming, plus Montana State – and a single NCAA Div. II school, the University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA).

RMISA, one of just three NCAA ski conferences, kicks off its alpine season with a series of  two slalom and two giant slalom events (Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 8-11) at the Alyeska Ski Resort, located about 40 miles south of Anchorage in Girdwood.

      Tom Olson

Two more alpine events follow Jan. 15-16 at the Eldora (Colo.) Mountain Resort, which means that more than half of the RMISA season will be over before Whitman classes resume on Tuesday, Jan. 20. The regular season concludes with races Feb. 5-7 at Winter Park, Colo., followed by the NCAA West Regional on Feb. 19-20 at the Mt. Rose Ski Resort in California’s Sierra Mountains.

Each RMISA school can qualify as many three male and three female alpine skiers for the NCAA national championships, set for March 11-14 at Sunday River, Maine. As a conference, however, RMISA is limited to sending a total of 18 men and 18 women to the alpine national championships.

With a good early snow season, Whitman’s alpine teams normally get training time on snow at near Ski Bluewood in late November and early December. That wasn’t the case this year, however, as snow didn’t fall until Whitman’s finals week.

“It means that we’re behind the other RMISA schools in terms of on-snow training, Olson says. “We’re definitely fit – just not snow fit. At least our skiers worked tremendously hard this fall with their dryland training. They made great strides with their overall fitness, strength, quickness, balance and agility. It also helps that our first-year skiers come from good training academies and ski clubs.”

“Our hope is that our skiers are getting time on snow during the holidays,” Olson says. “We’ll head to Alaska on Jan. 5 and then have a few days on snow before the first races on Jan. 8.”

.......... Men’s Alpine Team ..........

Christopher Machesney
       Brad West

Tim Bak, a sophomore from Stowe, Vt., heads a Whitman squad that includes freshmen Christopher Machesney (Cumberland, Maine), Nathan Ord (Juneau, Alaska), and Brad West (Minneapolis, Minn.).

John David Davidson, a returning sophomore from Ketchum, Idaho, is also on the men’s roster, although Olson says a heavy academic load might keep him from racing this season.

Bak was Whitman’s top skier on the men’s side last year, placing as high as 25th in the slalom and 27th in the giant slalom.

“Tim is definitely stronger than he was a year ago, and his year of experience will serve him well this season,” Olson says.

       Nathan Ord

West might be the best of the three freshmen.

“Brad (West) is right there with Tim in terms of ability,” Olson says. “They are going to battle one another for the top spot on our team. Tim is stronger in the giant slalom, but Brad is stronger in the slalom. It’s hard to tell when I have yet to see them race and compete in the same race.”

Machesney and Ord, his other two freshmen, are not far off the pace, Olson adds.

“Ord might be our best and strongest athlete, but Machesney is also very athletic and quick. I think all four of these guys can challenge each other on any given day. It will be fun to watch them chase and push each other. We haven’t had that kind of quality depth the past few years.”

.......... Women’s Alpine Team ..........

     Torey Anderson
      Lexie Drechsel

Liza Allen, a sophomore from Lincoln, Vt., leads a Whitman team that includes three first-tear skiers – Torey Anderson (Centennial, Colo.), Lexie Drechsel (Farmington, Maine) and Polly Evans (Chester Spring, Pa.). Evans did her prep skiing at New Hampshire’s Holderness School.

Also on roster, but not expected to race this season, are juniors Lucia Paciotti and Emily Baker. Paciotti, Whitman’s top skier last season, wasn’t able to make her academic and ski schedules fit this winter, and Baker is just now returning from a study abroad semester in India.

Allen enjoyed a strong finish to her first college season last winter, placing 30th and 32nd at the regional championships. She also finished 31st at a slalom race early in the season, when she had Whitman’s best finish at three straight events.

       Polly Evans

“Liza is the same situation as Tim Bak on our men’s team,” Olson says. “She’s a year older and a year stronger, and she has three first-year teammates who can push her. She starts as our No. 1 skier for the women, but the three first-year women have different strengths and weaknesses in the slalom and giant slalom. All four of these skiers are capable of nailing a run and finishing first for our team.”

“Torey (Anderson) is probably the most athletic person we have on our women’s team,” Olson says. “She also has a competitive track & field background. Polly (Evans) probably has the best technique and dryland training background, and Lexie (Drechsel) is a bit older and more experienced in that she concentrated on her skiing for a year after graduating from high school and before coming to Whitman.”

Both Whitman teams face a huge challenge once the RMISA season gets underway. “The Division I schools have a lot of World Cup skiers from around the world, so our goal is to stay positive and attack the courses when we can,” Olson says. “Again, all of our skiers come from good ski backgrounds, so they’ve seen elite competition before. All of them are very coachable, and from what I see, they are ready to go.”

- 30 - 

CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; holden@whitman.edu