Middlebury will travel to Colorado for the 2016 NCAA Skiing Championships from March 9-12 at Mt. Werner and Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. The championships will be hosted by the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Action begins on Wednesday the 9th with the women's and men's giant slalom races, followed by the women's 5K freestyle and men's 10K freestyle events on Thursday. The slalom takes center stage on Thursday with night racing, while the men's 20K classic and women's 15K classic races conclude the championships on Saturday.
Middlebury qualified the maximum of three men, along with two women on the alpine side. Juniors Rob Cone (Killington, Vt.) and Colin Hayes (Evergreen, Colo.) will be joined by sophomore Riley Plant (Auburn, Calif.) on the men's side. First-year racers Caroline Bartlett (London, Ont.) and Lexi Calcagni (Rutland, Vt.) will compete for the Panther women.
On the nordic side, seniors Kelsey Phinney (Boulder, Colo.) and Annie Pokorny (Spokane, Wash.) will race for the women, while junior Patrick McElravey (Tahoe City, Calif.) will represent the Panther men.
Phinney is top-ranked female nordic racer on the eastern circuit. The senior won three of six individual races she competed in this year, finishing second twice and fifth once. She picked up wins in the 5K free at Bates, the 15K classic at Colby and the 15K classic during the Dartmouth Carnival. Phinney missed the final two carnivals of the year competing for the United States at the U23 World Championships in Romania. A year ago, she qualified for the NCAAs and held down a spot as a second-team All-East selection. Phinney also qualified for the NCAA Championships in 2013.
Pokorny joined the Panthers prior to the University of Vermont Carnival, after skiing for the team in 2012 and 2013. She was the 2012 EISA Nordic Rookie of the Year, qualifying for the NCAAs in both 2012 and 2013. Pokorny finished the carnival season ranked fourth overall among all eastern skiers. The senior raced seven times this season, finishing in the top-six on six occasions. She earned a win in the 5K classic pursuit at Williams before taking home the title in the 5K freestyle race at Middlebury. At UVM, Pokorny was fourth in the 5K free and second in the 10K classic.
McElravey returns to the NCAAs after representing the men a year ago. He is ranked 15th overall in the east and 10th in the freestyle event. The sophomore earned a season-best seventh-place finish in the 10K free at the UVM Carnival, placing ninth in the same event at Bates. McElravey missed two carnivals this season with an injury, returning for his home carnival on February 26-27.
Cone had another standout season for the alpine men, finishing the carnival season ranked second overall among his peers. The defending NCAA slalom champion had another big season with seven top-seven finishes in nine races. Cone picked up a win in the slalom on his home course at the Middlebury Carnival, along with four other second-place finishes. Second-place efforts came in the slalom at Colby and the GS at Dartmouth, Williams and Middlebury.
After two top-10 finishes a year ago, Hayes accomplished the feat six times in 2016. He earned his first career win at Williams, taking home first place in the slalom. His other best efforts were fourth in the slalom at Dartmouth and sixth in the GS at Colby. Hayes is ranked ninth overall in the east, sixth in the slalom.
Plant finished the year ranked 19th overall in the east, holding down the 13th spot in the giant slalom. He earned season-best sixth-place finishes in the GS during the opening carnival at Bates and the final races at Middlebury. He also earned a top-1 effort at Colby, placing eighth in the GS.
On the women's side, Bartlett had a steady season, leading the Panthers in nearly every carnival. The rookie is ranked 13th overall in the east, finishing in the top 20 in every event she completed, while cracking the top-10 three times. Her best finish of the season was a fourth-place effort in the GS at Colby, placing sixth the following week at UVM.
Calcagni came on strong in the final carnival at Middlebury to earn her NCAA spot. She is the 19th overall skier ranked in the east, 13th in the GS. Her fourth-place finish in the GS at Middlebury was her best of the year and solidified her post-season slot. She earned five finishes in the top 15 this year, placing 11th in the GS at UVM and 12th in the same event at Colby.