For Hardenbergh, the thought of competing at the highest collegiate level served as motivation throughout the season, as she hoped to cap off her senior year with her a personal-best . Her hard work paid off as she was able to finish the season by qualifying and then competing at the NCAA Skiing Championship.
The 66th Annual National Collegiate Skiing Championship was hosted by the University of Vermont in Stowe, Vt. from Mar. 6 to Mar. 9. 74 men and 74 women, making up some of the best collegiate skiers, were selected to participate in the event. The skiers represent those at the top of their field, so the field was deep and the competition challenging, This didn’t intimidate the Harvard program from adding to that competition.
University of Utah ended up leading the teams in scoring, earning its 13th title in program history with a total of 426.5 points. University of Vermont followed in second place.
The championship includes both nordic and alpine events, with both Hardenbergh and Kitch representing the Crimson in the nordic categories at their first ever NCAA appearance. The Nordic categories Harvard competed in include the men’s 10k freestyle and 20k classical and the women's 5k freestyle and 15k classical.
Hardenbergh opened up the Division 1 Championships on Wednesday, competing in the 5k freestyle. Her first appearance at the tournament went well, with a time of 14:47.4 she placed 35th overall. The 5k is a typically a sprint style race and usually one of Hardenbergh’s stronger races.
Skiers accumulate points over the course of the regular season for their performance. This ranking of skiers is updated throughout the season, and often serves as a goal for athletes throughout the season.
The fierce competition from other schools and many upperclassman makes qualifying challenging, and something that athletes work towards throughout their entire collegiate careers.
“I was not surprised,” Hardenbergh reflected on Kitch’s qualification. “We both have been working hard towards this goal for a long time and it felt really good to finally see all the hours and the energy pay off.”
Kitch was coming off an especially impressive performance for his first season on the team. In his opening competition earlier this winter, Kitch paced the Crimson men’s nordic squad which resulted in him placing 18th at the St. Lawrence Carnival with a time of 30:14.3.
Concluding Harvard’s showing in Stowe was Kitch with his best performance of the championship. Bringing home the Crimson’s sole team points from the championship, Kitch earned Harvard six points with his 25th place in the Men’s 20k Classical with a time of 58:28.1.
Kitch also opened the competition well, finishing the 10k Freestyle Skate in 26.16.0 earning a place of 37th out of a field of 40.
“It couldn’t have gone better,” said Hardenbergh. “Qualifying for championships has been a four year long goal of mine and I was very satisfied to end on a high note.”
The trip to the NCAA by two members of the Harvard Nordic Skiing caps off another impressive season for the Crimson as they continue to build up the team. Although the Crimson will lose Hardenbergh to graduation, Kitch remains a promising figure on a developing program.