University’s alpine skiing club travels to nationals

The club will take a 27-hour road trip to Oregon to compete at nationals.

University alpine skier Madison Whalen competes on March 2.

Kerrin Burke Lahr

University alpine skier Madison Whalen competes on March 2.

Sam Kraemer

At the regional championships last month, freshman Gabriella Sorg glided down the competition’s hill — unaware of how her time would impact the University of Minnesota’s alpine skiing club.

Ankle-high lasers at the end of the track recorded Sorg’s run one-hundredth of a second faster than her University of Minnesota-Duluth counterpart, giving the Gophers the tiebreaker and launching them to the national tournament for the first time in years.

The skiers left for the national competition in Bend, Ore., on Friday and will hit the slopes next week, hoping to show off their months of training and preparation.

Both the men’s and women’s teams advanced on tiebreaker victories.

Nick Eagon, a junior marketing major and president of the alpine skiing club, felt the club was destined for nationals this season.

With a massive winter storm limiting the number of runs and affecting the electronic timing system this season, Eagon said the teams embraced the chance to rise to the occasion at regionals.

As for Sorg, an animal science freshman, she said she’s humbled by her opportune time last month at the giant slalom.

“If my teammates would have placed just a second later, it would have the same effect on the team,” she said. “I just feel like it was a whole team effort.”

The club’s excitement is high, and it hasn’t been curbed by the 27-hour road trip that separates the skiers and the competition.

“It’s probably the most exciting moment of my skiing career,” said Kelsey Sievert, a biomedical engineering junior and captain of the women’s team. “[We’ve been] looking forward to the trip and can’t wait to race.”

Upon earning a spot at the national tournament, the alpine skiing club has put forth an all-hands-in type of effort to fundraise.

And the efforts have reconnected the club with alumni and stories of the past, Eagon said. An alumnus made a donation in memory of two former club members who passed away, he said.

Eagon said the gesture gave him a newfound perspective, and he’s thankful for it.

“I just thought this was going to be traveling to local Midwestern ski areas,” he said. “Now, all of a sudden, we’re connecting with people all over the country that have been so impacted by this organization. … It’s really eye-opening.”

Eagon and other members of the ski teams have seemingly embraced all aspects of the club: scheduling travel, handling a budget and managing the logistics of registration, among other duties.

And the lengthy list of responsibilities only makes the qualification for nationals sweeter, he said.

“I think it’s honestly enriched the experience because being that it is club, there’s a lot more responsibility and accountability that go with it,” Eagon said. “This is one of the most meaningful things I’ve been a part of.”

None of the 48 players on the roster have experience at the national tournament, but that won’t stop them from enjoying the moment when the competition starts on Tuesday.

“I honestly don’t really know what to expect [at nationals]. I wasn’t really expecting to be racing at nationals this year, but I’m definitely excited to be doing so,” Sorg said.