Donaldson falls just shy of second title
After earning title at Vermont, he had hopes set on podium return
HANCOCK, Vt. -- Things didn’t go exactly as planned for Middlebury’s David ‘Donnie’ Donaldson, the oldest alpine athlete in this year’s NCAA championships who was a pre-race favorite for the slalom victory. Despite winning the first run on his home hill, Donaldson, a Toronto native, made two costly errors in the second run and ultimately crossed the finish line in second place.
“God, I wanted it so badly [Friday]. I was thinking how sweet it would be to stand on top of the podium in my first ever NCAA race at Sunday River five years ago and to also stand on top for my last one,” he reflected.
Donaldson won the NCAA giant slalom title in 2009 when he skied for the Vermont Catamounts. At 27 years of age, however, Donaldson was no longer eligible for Division 1 competition. Undeterred, he transferred to Middlebury’s Division III team, sat out one year of scored racing in 2011-2012, and returned to the circuit this season for his final year of collegiate eligibility.
“I’m glad to be back here—it’s only my third chance. You only get four opportunities if you’re very lucky to ski NCAAs. There’s no other race like it in the world,” Donaldson asserted.
He dominated a season’s worth of skiing in the East, winning five of the six giant slalom races and adding a slalom victory and second place finish to his résumé. The slalom race winner, Joonas Rasanen of New Mexico, won three slaloms this season on the RMISA circuit, and he edged out Donaldson by just under three-tenths of a second for the victory in the national championship.
In Wednesday’s giant slalom race, Donaldson sat inside the top 10 after the first run but dropped to 21st overall at the conclusion of the race. It was well shy of what he expected of himself. Two days later, with a national championship title within reach, he struggled once again to seal the deal.
“I had 118 turns on the hill [Friday] that were faster than anyone else, and I had two that run that weren’t, and that’s what cost me,” Donaldson reasoned in the finish area.
Despite the disappointment of failing to reach a goal two seasons in the making, Donaldson was able to appreciate the challenge of winning against the best collegiate skiers in the country.
“I realized this is the last race, and a year ago today we unfortunately lost one of our best friends, Nik Zoricic. I felt the pressure on Wednesday, and I did too much. And [Friday] I kind of remembered, ski racing isn’t everything. But it is everything. I wanted to win, but obviously there are 33 other awesome skiers here, and you can’t beat them all every day. I did as well as I could,” Donaldson concluded.
Although his NCAA racing career is finished, Donaldson still intends to battle his way further up the competition pipeline. He will next travel to Nakiska, Canada, to compete in the NorAm Cup Finals, hoping to secure a World Cup start in giant slalom next year if he is able to move up far enough in the rankings by the end of the season.