BOZEMAN, Mont. — At last year’s championships, Harvard’s Rebecca Nadler placed 33rd out of the 35 competitors in the giant slalom race. She was woefully disappointed with her performance at that event, a low point in her skiing career. Today, she was crowned the first national champion in the history of Harvard after winning the 2012 giant slalom title. A lot can change in a year.
Nadler showed potential all season long with numerous EISA podium appearances and the first win for Harvard ever in an NCAA alpine race at the Williams Carnival in February. She was named the dark horse in the NCAA championships. But the nerves of heightened competition and memories of her past results from nationals could have easily wiped away her chances of victory.
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She was in second place after the first run, but even that seemed a bit surreal to her and her coaches. A fourth place result in the second run launched her into the lead, and the winner from the first run made a major mistake and finished far off the podium. After struggling the previous year, Nadler was enthralled, “I was not expecting a first place, but I will take it with open arms. To come out here this year and get this result was definitely a really good improvement.”
Harvard’s head coach Tim Mitchell remarked, “It was definitely in the back of our mind that this could happen here, but it’s one of those things that you never want to focus on the result. It’s still a little difficult for me to wrap my head around, from where we were six years ago to where we are right now; clearly this [result] is massive…. I’m just totally overwhelmed.”
Nadler held the EISA GS leader bib for a portion of the season and had a strong chance of winning that title. But she lost it at regional championships to Vermont’s Kate Ryley, and that helped motivate her ultimate success, “I was hoping to hang on to the overall GS title, but Kate is a great skier and to come second to her was alright. It definitely left me wanting more, so I’m glad I could come out and prove myself here.”
Unlike some other collegiate athletes in the races who are on Spring Break from their schools, Nadler’s vacation week does not start until championships are finished. She has balanced studying neurobiology with becoming a national champion in a typical fashion, “I’m doing [school] work out here because I still have deadlines. I’ve just worked on that time management to get everything done.”
Her mother offered advice to the parents of racers who face dissatisfaction in the sport, “For every win, there are many more disappointments. We’ve lived that. But what this sport teaches you in general is to take responsibility for yourself and to stand back up. I think what Becca represents are truly those abilities.”
As for Nadler’s future aspirations for herself and her team, she said, “I hope Harvard just keeps surprising people until it isn’t a surprise anymore.”
•Vermont climbs into first place