Alpine Skiing Sends School-Record Five Qualifiers to NCAA Championship

Alpine Skiing Sends School-Record Five Qualifiers to NCAA Championship

2019 NCAA Championship Alpine Skiing Schedule

Thursday, March 7 (note time changes)
9 a.m. - Women's GS 1st Run
10 a.m. - Men's GS 1st Run
12 p.m. - Women's GS 2nd Run
1 p.m. - Men's GS 2nd Run

Saturday, March 9
9 a.m. - Men's SL 1st Run
10 a.m. - Women's SL 1st Run
12 p.m. - Men's SL 2nd Run
1 p.m. - Women's SL 2nd Run

COLCHESTER, Vt. - A school-record five Saint Michael's College skiers have qualified for the NCAA Championship, it was announced on Tuesday, as the quintet of Alpine racers will take part in an event that involves student-athletes from Division I, II and III. This marks the third time in four years the Purple Knights have set a school record for NCAA qualifiers, with this year's championship taking place nearby in Stowe.

Senior Guillaume Grand (La Plagne, France/Lycée Général Ferrié) matches a program mark with his fourth qualification, junior Anna Willassen (Jar, Norway/Persbråten VGS) becomes the first Purple Knight woman to qualify three times, while classmates Colby Jordan (Charlotte, Vt./Mount Mansfield Winter Academy) and Emilia Laffin (Chamonix, France/Lycée du Mont-Blanc René Dayve) and first-year Ben Throm (Aspen, Colo./Aspen) will make their debuts. Alpine events take place on March 7 and 9 at Stowe Mountain Resort.

Saint Michael's has the distinction of tying for the third-most Alpine qualifiers from the East, matching national power University of Vermont while sending more men (3) than the Catamounts (2). The Purple Knights are slated to send more Alpine skiers to nationals than regional heavyweight University of New Hampshire (4), which qualified two competitors of each gender. Dartmouth College and Middlebury College were the only East programs to have a full complement of six Alpine skiers land spots in the NCAA Championship, while Saint Michael's is among just seven programs across the nation to send the maximum three male Alpine skiers to NCAAs.

Seventy-four skiers from each gender will take part in Alpine and Nordic races at the national championship, with 34 female and 34 male Alpine skiers competing, including 16 apiece from the East Region. On March 7, the women's giant slalom begins at 9 a.m. before the men's competition starts at 10:15 a.m. Skiers return for the slalom on March 9, as the men start at 9 a.m. and the women at 10 a.m.

Grand becomes the second Purple Knight to ever qualify for four NCAA Championships, joining Saint Michael's Athletic Hall of Famer Keith Farnand '00. A top-10 finisher during 43 of his 54 career starts, Grand took 13th in both the giant slalom and slalom during last year's NCAA Championship in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Grand owns the only two All-America finishes in Saint Michael's skiing history, both in the slalom, having placed ninth as a rookie and 10th as a sophomore. Thanks in part to nine top-five placements on the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) circuit this winter, including four runner-up showings, Grand became the first Purple Knight to earn EISA All-East first team accolades in 23 years. He is the fifth four-time EISA All-East honoree in College history, and the first since the EISA's Division I and II leagues merged for the 1993-94 season.

Willassen becomes the first Purple Knight female - Alpine or Nordic - to qualify for three NCAA Championships. She posted a 22nd-place finish in last year's GS after taking 27th during the slalom in 2017 and 28th in 2018. Willassen didn't complete the opening run of her GS event as a first-year. Willassen's best performance this winter was an eighth-place showing during the GS at the UNH Carnival, and she added a 10th-place finish in the UVM Carnival GS. Willassen has cracked the top 20 16 times in her career, including on 14 occasions in GS events. With Willassen qualifying, Saint Michael's will have Norwegian representation at the NCAA Championship for the seventh time in eight years.

Jordan, who missed all of his sophomore campaign due to injury, debuted this season with a career-best fifth-place showing in the Saint Lawrence University Carnival GS, the first of seven top-25 finishes. Five of those performances were in GS races, including him taking 12th at the UNH Carnival, 17th at the EISA Championship, 19th during the Middlebury Carnival and 20th in the NCAA qualifier on Feb. 17. Jordan was a career-high 21st in the UNH slalom and 22nd during the same race at Saint Lawrence. Despite the injury stealing a season, Jordan has made strides since his rookie year of 2017, when he had only two top-20 showings in 10 events.

Laffin qualified on the strength of a consistent season, topped by a career-high seventh-place slalom run at Saint Lawrence. In all, she was among the top 20 eight times in 12 starts, split evenly between slalom and GS events. Her other best slalom performances came at Middlebury (11th), Dartmouth (18th) and New Hampshire (18th), while Laffin's best GS showings were all in the high teens, at the EISA Championship (15th), Middlebury (16th), NCAA qualifier (16th) and New Hampshire (18th). Laffin nearly matched her career total of 10 top-20 performances entering the season, in 24 starts.

Throm's top performances all came in the GS, where he claimed four top-10 showings. Throm was tied for third during the NCAA qualifier, seventh at Middlebury, eighth at Saint Lawrence and 10th at UVM. His best slalom showing was at Middlebury, when he took 23rd out of 55 finishers. Throm, who was second in the slalom at the 2014 U.S. Alpine U18 National Championship, competed on the Nor-Am Cup circuit between high school and his coming to Saint Michael's this past fall.

After neither the Alpine nor Nordic squads had ever sent more than one competitor to an NCAA Championship prior to 2016, the Alpine program has qualified at least three competitors for the fourth consecutive season. A record four went last winter, when Grand, Willassen, Danny Duffy '18 and Meggane Grand '18 single-handedly put the Purple Knights in a school-record 12th place among 23 teams with a school-record 73 points. The Purple and Gold has set a program mark for points each of the last three years, while its placement in 2018 broke a 30-year-old standard. This year is the first time three Purple Knights of the same gender have qualified for NCAAs.

Eleven of the 19 qualifiers in College history have come in Gus MacLeod's '02 nine-year tenure as Alpine head coach, with those 11 accounting for 19 qualifications. MacLeod, the 2017 EISA Alpine Skiing Coach of the Year, saw his charges podium six times while claiming 19 top-10 individual showings this winter. Twelve different Purple Knights - six men, six women - earned NCAA points this winter by placing among the top 30 in a race.

The NCAA Championship will be webcast live on NCAA.com/liveschedule. Complete multimedia links will be available through SMCAthletics.com.