CASTLETON, Vt. – After racing its way to a sixth-place finish at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association National Championship a year ago, the Castleton men's alpine ski team returns to action Thursday at Okemo for the slalom, before hitting the slopes for the giant slalom on Friday.
Chris Eder begins his 14th season as head coach of the Spartans in 2017, helping bring them to the top of the East Division in 2016 as they captured the combined Eastern Regional Championship, as well as the team giant slalom championship.
The Spartans return six members of last year's team, including standout All-American Matt Couture. Couture has received six All-America honors in his three years at Castleton, and looks to remain as the top Spartan skier during the 2017 season. He finished sixth overall in the slalom portion at the USCSA National Championships a year ago, while bringing home 14th place in the combined standings.
Also back for the Spartans is senior Erick Robicsek, who claimed a 22nd place overall finish at the USCSA National Championships in 2016. He finished among the top 30 in the nation in the GS at the event, and he ended his regular season with five consecutive top-20 finishes overall.
Another key returner for the Spartans is Connor Kelly, who grabbed the Eastern Region title in the GS a season ago in Maine with a time of 1:08.82. Kelly brought home All-Region honors for his performance, as well as All-Division honors for his ninth-place spot in the combined standings.
Rounding out the key Spartan returners is Christopher Yopp, a sophomore who had a strong showing in his rookie season, finishing 12th overall in the slalom at the USCSA National Championship. He posted a season-best finish of 10th in the slalom a year ago at Pat's Peak, as well as a 15th place finish in the slalom at Blackwater early in the year.
The Spartans have a pair of sophomore transfers joining the team this season, as Cameron Heald and Erik Brobacke arrive in time for competition. Heald, a Rutland native, comes to Castleton from Plymouth State, while Brobacke arrives from the College of Idaho. Castleton also features six incoming freshmen as it looks to bolster its roster following a year in which it graduated five key racers.
Castleton has 10 regular-season races on the schedule this year, split evenly between five slalom races and five giant slalom races. The team heads to New York back-to-back weekends to close out January at West Mountain and Whiteface before closing out the regular season with back-to-back races in New Hampshire in February at Crotched Mountain and Blackwater. The Eastern Regional Championships will be held at West Mountain in Queensbury, N.Y., and the USCSA National Championships will be in Bend, Ore., should the squad qualify for the event.