Colgate Skiing: A True Underdog Story

Garrett Ley

The Colgate University men’s alpine ski team, in a David and Goliath story truer than the Bible itself, advanced to the 2009 U.S. Collegiate Skiing National Championships in Winter Park, Colorado and finished tied for 17th for the weekend.

“Nationals have always been the goal since I’ve been on the team, but this year I felt really good about our talent,” senior captain Matt Seconi said. Seconi is the heart and soul of the team who came down with mononucleosis in February, but bounced back to race admirably at Winter Park.

Colgate nearly competed in the National Championships last season, but was denied entry after losing in a tie breaker to Alfred by a hundredth of a second. Though the team lost a key racer in Steve Fuller ’08 to graduation, two talented first-years-Spencer Seconi and Axel Spaeh-revitalized the roster in 2009. The top three skiers were consistently senior Hugh Harris and juniors Pat Hughes and Tim Silver.

In a field that featured big-name schools, Colgate held its own and remained competitive. Though the men finished tied for 17th in the field of 20, they were just two points shy from finishing in 12th place.

“I would say the competition was a little intimidating, but we understood that these were big name schools that recruited,” Seconi said. “We were more focused on doing well against the few teams that had similar backgrounds to us, and we did just that.”

The true underdog story took flight on the humble slopes of Toggenburg, a local ski hill just 30 minutes from campus. The team arrived to Hamilton a week before classes began for preseason training, which proved vital down the stretch.

Racing on collegiate skiing’s biggest stage, the Raiders were admittedly nervous for the Giant Slalom on the first day of competition. The second day was a different story, however, as the men went back to what got them there in the first place.

“Everyone was definitely a little anxious the night before the first day,” Seconi said. “Our coach was especially stressing to stay focused 24/7. That didn’t work very well the first day, so the team decided to handle the second day the way we handle all competitions: just have fun. Needless to say, it worked out and we had a very good day for such a small school.”

Colgate placed 12th in the Slalom on the second day to improve their standing by two spots. All in all, seniors Harris and Seconi can walk away from the collegiate racing careers with a smile.

“I got to spend four days at Winter Park with some of my closest friends at Colgate while competing against the best,” Seconi said. “It is awesome to finish my competitive racing days knowing all those days at Toggenburg paid off.”