Ripp and team win individual National Championships

Paul Smith’s men finish second overall, women take third

The Paul Smith’s Nordic ski team celebrates after competing at nationals in Mammoth Mountain, California. (Provided photo)

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — The Paul Smith’s College men’s Nordic ski team traveled to California last week to defend their national championship title from a year ago.

Every curveball possible was thrown at the team to disrupt them and the entire championship week — Mammoth Mountain even endured record-setting snowfalls that paralyzed the venues. Despite the weather, PSC edged Western Colorado by three points on the first day of the competition, while Aidan Ripp (Cloquet, Minnesota) won the individual national championship in the process.

Paul Smith’s Gustav Whitcomb (Holderness, New Hampshire) finished in fifth place and Philip Matthews (Half Moon) was seventh. The women’s team also started the week off strong with Jessie Church (Bethlehem) leading the way in fourth place as the Bobcat women took third place overall as a team.

The championships started with a last-minute call to move races forward a day, and with less than 12 hours of preparation time, the Bobcats readied their skis for the 7.5K Classic Race, which was held on Tuesday, March 7. Tamarack Nordic Center hosted the event as the first of the competition.

On the second day of the championships was the individual skate sprint, but excessive snowfall and gusty winds created visibility issues The women persevered anyway, with Church once again leading the way in seventh place. The team finished in fifth place.

The men found themselves in another battle with Western Colorado, with four men in the advancement rounds and three making it all the way to the A and B finals. Ripp led the men with a third-place finish, followed by Whitcomb in seventh and Matthews in 10th.

In the end, the effort was enough to tie their rivals at 18 points apiece, leaving the Bobcats with a slim three-point lead heading into what became the final day of racing.

Due to the weather, the race organizers once again made a change to the race schedule, forgoing the traditional rest day and moving the 15K up one day. The organizers also canceled the final team sprint event.

In the 15K mass start both Paul Smith’s College teams competed for spots on the podium. Racing three days in a row at high altitudes proved to be a daunting challenge, but the Bobcats would fight valiantly to the bitter end.

After the final race, Western Colorado edged out the Bobcats to take the overall team win, landing the Bobcats men in second on the day, and second overall.

On the women’s side, a strong final day of racing enabled Paul Smith’s College to retain their third-place overall team finish.

“I am so proud of both these teams,” Saranac Lake native and PSC coach Matt Dougherty said in a statement. “Their performance is absolutely astounding considering all the challenges of weather and altitude. To have us compete with teams that live and train at these elevations is a huge win and something we can be very proud of.

“I really am so impressed with how this team took the many challenges thrown at them and showed up every day to be the absolute best skiers they could be while leaving nothing on the course,” he added. “Simply a tremendous effort.”

Four Bobcats will continue their season at the U.S. Biathlon National Championships in Casper, Wyoming at the end of March.


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