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Kitch and Ryan Deliver Standout Performances at NCAA Skiing Championships

Harvard skiing in competition.
Harvard skiing in competition. By Courtesy of Lily Koffman

Harvard skiing hit the slopes for a final time this season, putting up a strong performance at the recent 2022 NCAA Skiing Championships in Utah from March 9-12.

The Crimson, led by junior nordic skier James Kitch and first-year alpine skier Matt Ryan, finished in the top 30 in every event. Kitch competed in the 10 kilometer classic, placing 26th with a 26:10.1 time, as well as the 20 kilometer freestyle, finishing in just over 45 minutes. Ryan also had a strong showing for the Crimson, placing 28th after his second run in the giant slalom, advancing four spots on the overall leaderboard. On Friday, Ryan continued his strong form, finishing 30th in the slalom.

Ryan was disappointed with his result in the slalom, in which he was disqualified for straddling a gate, but he was pleased with his placing in the giant slalom. It “was right about where I had anticipated, based on my previous results this season,” he noted.

Although just a first-year, Ryan made an immediate impact for the Crimson. Typically finishing in the top 20 in his events, Ryan nabbed a career-best sixth place in slalom at the Dartmouth Carnival on Feb. 11-12 and ended eighth in the Colby Carnival on Jan. 14-15. As the first Harvard male alpine skier to compete at the NCAA Championships since 1988, Ryan followed up on his consistent strong showings throughout the season, overcoming his early disqualification and a weather delay that pushed his race back a day.

“The postponement from Wednesday to Thursday definitely allowed for much better race conditions,” Ryan said. “I think the postponement added to the sense of anticipation, but we experience postponements all the time in ski racing, so I wouldn't say it had any adverse effect on the outcome of the race. We just refocus for the following day and execute our plan.”

After the delay, Ryan didn’t waver and came through with a strong 30th place finish in the slalom. Such focus undoubtedly contributed to the team’s strong performances all year, as the Crimson saw 12 different skiers finish within the top 25 at a Carnival.

Kitch has been a steady presence for the Crimson the entire season, competing in all six Carnivals this year. He consistently placed in the top 30 throughout the season, including eight top 20 finishes. This was his third NCAA Championship appearance, and in an event where, in 2020, he posted the best-ever Nordic time in Harvard history with his 13th place finish in the 10k freestyle.

Kitch’s NCAA run was very different from his last given that he attended his last NCAAs in March 2020 alone due to Harvard’s Covid travel regulations. between this NCAA run and his last. He attended his last NCAAs in March 2020 alone due to Harvard’s Covid travel regulations.

“[I felt] so supported that whole week. It was all just really fun to be out in Utah for a week in March,” he said.

Kitch attributed his success this season to one of the Crimson’s new assistant coaches, Brandon Herhusky.

“I had an absolute blast working with him this year,” he said. “Brandon and Chris [City, the Paul J. Finnegan Family Head Coach for Harvard Nordic Skiing]...know me better than I think any coaches have known me before on how I respond to racing.”

Although the Crimson are finished competing for the year, they have already begun preparations for next year’s season.

“[The NCAAs] really invigorated my love for skiing, and I'm excited to do one last collegiate year next year,” Kitch said.

After its strong performance in the NCAA Championships, Harvard has a strong foundation to build on over the offseason.

“I felt really fortunate that the NCAA brought me out there, and I got to spend a week racing against some of the fastest people in the country,” Kitch said.”It was just a really great time.”

Ryan echoed his sentiments: “As a team, we performed exceptionally well, breaking personal bests and records all season. I am proud of our team and am excited for next winter, as we have been progressively improving year over year.”

–Staff writer Maddie B. Barkate can be reached at madison.barkate@thecrimson.com.

–Staff writer Mimi Koenig can be reached at miriam.koenig@thecrimson.com.

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