CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University winter athletic programs gathered at the Casella Theater on Wednesday evening to celebrate the success of the student-athletes during the 2018-19 campaign.
Chief Academic Officer Jonathan Spiro was on hand to present the President's Cup for Academic Excellence on behalf of President Karen Scolforo, as the women's nordic ski team earned the award with a combined team grade point average of 3.78. The award is given out each season to the team with the highest cumulative GPA.
This winter marked the Little East Conference debut for the Spartans, as the team played stiff defense en route to an LEC postseason berth with a 14-12 record overall and a 6-10 mark in conference play—marking the 17th straight season that a Tim Barrett-led team finished above .500. One of the team's signature victories came at Glenbrook Gym when the Spartans used a stout defensive effort to overcome a 10-point deficit in the second half against a strong UMass Boston team, highlighted by holding the Beacons to 0-for-14 from the floor in the fourth quarter. Abbie Lesure hauled in team MVP honors after leading the team in minutes played and assists while ranking second and third in those same categories among all players in the LEC, and found her way onto the LEC All-Academic Team.
The men's basketball team got off to a quick start this year, downing Rivier in the season-opener before beating Bridgewater State and NVU-Lyndon in the first two weeks of action before getting into Little East Conference play and finishing the year 3-22 overall. The Spartans rolled over NVU-Lyndon in a neutral-site game as five different players scored double-digits while putting up a strong defensive effort en route to an 89-73 victory. Igor Almeida landed team MVP accolades after leading the team in rebounding while playing a versatile role and strong defense all season.
Women's Ice Hockey
The Spartans closed the season on a tear, winning seven of eight games to finish the year with a record of 11-14-3 and propel them to the NEHC Championship game against in-state rival and reigning national champion Norwich. The team won a pair of nail-biters in the NEHC Tournament en route to that championship contest, downing Plymouth State 2-1 before knocking off Johnson & Wales 4-3 at Spartan Arena. Team MVP Rylie Wills started 17 times in net, posting one shutout and a 7-8-2 record for the Spartans while stopping 251 shots. She had a season-high 53 saves against Endicott in January before stopping 51 saves in the NEHC Championship loss at Norwich. She finished her career at Castleton with a 14-16-1 record, a .913 save percentage, 2.71 goals-against average and a pair of shutouts.
Men's Ice Hockey
The men's ice hockey team posted a 4-17-4 record, but saw many shining moments on the ice. The Spartans skated to a 1-1 tie against a tough New England College team that spent most of the season among the nation's top teams before picking up a solid, 4-3, road win at Johnson & Wales where they erased a three-goal deficit in the third period to claim the victory from the sticks of four different goal scorers. Team MVP Wyatt Pickrell made 20 saves in the win and finished his career as one of the top netminders in Spartan history. He made over 1,000 saves in his career and graduates ranking fourth all-time in program history in that category.
Women's Alpine Skiing
The women's alpine ski team had its best season ever in 2018-19, sweeping the regular season and regional championships by winning its first 10 races of the season heading into the USCSA National Championships. The Spartans won the ECSC MacConnell Division title for the second year in a row and recorded their best-ever team finish at the USCSA National Championships, landing second on the podium after finishing second in both the giant slalom and slalom in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Team MVP Kirsten Kruk was a three-time All-American this year after finishing eighth in the giant slalom, 13th in the slalom and 10th in the combined standings. She finished her career with 23 top-10 finishes for the Spartans while being a part of three regional-championship teams and two podiums at the USCSA National Championships.
Men's Alpine Skiing
The men's alpine skiing program had one of its best seasons in recent history, claiming the ECSC MacConnell title with five team wins leading up to the USCSA National Championships. The Spartans finished second in the slalom and fourth in the giant slalom to earn a combined spot of third place, tying their best-ever finish at the National Championships. Cameron Heald earned team MVP accolades after helping the Spartans to the podium at the USCSA National Championships as he earned All-America honors in the giant slalom while landing six top-10 finishes on the season.
Women's Nordic Skiing
The women's nordic ski program had one of its best seasons in program history in 2018-19, registering seven second-place finishes and a best-ever finish of fourth place at the USCSA National Championships in Wyoming. Team MVP Megan Greene was a four-time All-American at the event, placing among the best racers in the country in 7.5K Classic, Freestyle Sprint, 15K Classic and hauled in overall All-America status after finishing sixth in the combined standings.
Men's Nordic Skiing
The Spartans dominated on the course all season long, winning an impressive 12 races and earning the title of USCSA National Champions. After going unbeaten in the regular season, Castleton claimed the ECSC Regional Championship before winning national titles in the 7.5K Classic, Freestyle Sprint and 15K Freestyle. A third-place finish in the Classic Team Sprint lifted Castleton to the combined national title, the first in the program's short history. John Paluszek earned team MVP honors following his four-time All-America performance at the USCSA National Championships, including an individual national title in the Freestyle Sprint.
Women's Indoor Track & Field
The women's indoor track and field program continued to make strides throughout the season, breaking numerous program-bests week in and week out. The Spartans earned a seventh-place finish in their first appearance at the Little East Conference championships after seeing three program records broken at the Panther Invitational a week prior. One of those record-breaking performances came from team MVP Ally Stearns, who continued to improve upon her own record in the weight throw with a toss of 14.74 meters, nearly .4 meters further than her previous best and good enough to land her a spot at the NCAA DIII New England Regionals where she placed 13th in the region in the event.
Men's Indoor Track & Field
The men's indoor track and field program showed steady improvement throughout the year, finishing 10th at the Panther Invitational and eighth in their first appearance at the LEC Championships. Team MVP Tayler Larmie put on a show in field events, registering a season-best weight throw of 14.53 meters and a season-best shot put of 12.50 meters at Saint Lawrence to land a spot in the NCAA DIII New England Regionals for the weight throw. He finished 21st at the regional championships as Castleton's lone qualifier on the men's side.
The wrestling team had its best season in the program's young history, qualifying two wrestlers for the NCAA National Championships in just its third year of existence. The Spartans wrestled a host of nationally-ranked teams on the season but managed to set a program record with 15 dual-meet victories while finishing second at both the Ithaca Invitational and the Ted Reese Invitational. Team MVP Jesse Webb was one of two Spartan qualifiers for the NCAA National Championships, placing second in the regional championships at the 285-pound class. He went 32-10 on the season, including an impressive 13-0 in matches that ended with a pin.