Young Grizzlies Ski Team Learning from Experience
The Guilford Grizzlies co-ed alpine ski team is learning to work with a young core. Often, if a team is loaded with athletes new to the sport, it can be challenging to adapt to the experience levels of other programs. This season has focused on growth and learning for Head Coach Ashley Daudish and the Grizzlies.
With a team makeup of 13 boys and nine girls, the roster features a range of talent and experience levels. The one senior captain, Andrew Shosho, has helped his teammates blossom into better skiers as the season progresses.
“He is an excellent leader, really takes the time to get to know all of the team members on a personal level. He takes the time to make sure that they are all getting the information that is needed,” said Daudish. “This is really important to me that all of the students are getting the information that they all need. He does a good job at relating to every skier, no matter what their ability is, to help them to improve and do their best.”
The Grizzlies compete in the Connecticut Interscholastic Ski League (CISL) and are classified as Class S. They compete against Barlow, Brunswick, Cheshire Academy, Northwest Regional, Greenwich Academy, Hand, Hopkins, Lauralton Hall, St. Lukes, Westbrook, Weston, Wilton, Woodstock, and Litchfield/Wamogo.
On Jan. 26, both teams competed at Mount Southington for the second race of the season. The boy’s team finished sixth overall with a final team score of 326, and the girls’ team finished ninth overall with a final team score of 414.42.
Top racers from the girls’ team included sophomores Riley Hickey (combined time 58.44) and Anges Batters (combined time 60.97) and freshman Hannah Brown (combined time 64.32. Top racers for the boys’ team included freshmen Joel Kowalnek (combined time 49.27), Aaron Kowalnek (combined time 49.83), and Will Radick (combined time 55.61) and Shosho (combined time 55.86).
Throughout the season, the co-ed team has grown in numbers, but there is still a constant struggle to get over the learning curves that come with tackling a new venture and facing situations out of the athletes’ control.
“It is a very young team; about half are freshmen that have not had experience racing, which is fine because that is normal for us,” said Daudish. “The other challenge has been the weather because it really has not snowed. It creates less than ideal conditions and ones that are not used to skiing.”
On Feb. 2, both teams competed at their fourth race of the season. The girls’ team finished 12th overall and the boys’ team finished seventh overall. Top racers from the girls’ team included Hickey (combined time 55.62), Batters (combined time 58.03), and Brown (combined time 59.36).
Top racers from the boys’ team included Aaron Kowalnek (combined time 47.28), Joel Kowalnek (combined time 47.85), Shosho (combined time 53.19), and Radick (53.33).
Although the Grizzlies are a squad of mostly freshmen or novice skiers, Daudish ensures that everyone gets to race at the varsity level, regardless of their experience coming into the season.
“All of my skiers race varsity during some point of the season, and they will all receive a varsity letter,” said Daudish.
The boys’ team has qualified for the State Open race, which will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at Mount Southington. The girls were not able to qualify due to being a smaller team.
One skier, Joel Kowalnek, has also qualified for the shoot out race. This is an individual competition to get a spot on Team Connecticut, which is comprised of the best skiers in the state. To qualify for a spot on the team, each athlete had to compete in one slalom race, which is a race that follows a winding course between gates.
“We have one of our team members that will compete in this race, which is awesome. They race out of state for Team Connecticut,” said Daudish. “This is outside of our league, which they will attend with their family.”
On Feb. 9, the Grizzlies competed in their last race of the regular season, with the boys’ team finishing seventh overall and the girls’ team finishing 14th overall.
As they look ahead to the State Open, Daudish is excited for the two seniors, Shosho and Freddie Bonz. Daudish is glad they will get the opportunity to compete in one last race before their time as Guilford skiers expires.
“For the two seniors, I am excited for their sake that they get this extra race that they were not expecting to have. I am hoping that they get a fun experience out of it because we are not super competitive; a lot of it is mostly for fun,” said Daudish. “I just hope that they got a great experience over their four years on the team. They are all really good kids, and they get along really well.”
Although the girls’ team did not qualify for the State Open race, Daudish hopes this season was a good first experience for the young core and that they can continue to develop over the next few years.
“I just hope that they got a good first experience; I hope to see them return next year,” said Daudish. “I am hoping for next year that we grow bigger in size, as well as qualify as a girls’ team.”
Daudish, who is in her sixth year as the head coach, is assisted by Dave Hall on the slopes.
The boys’ roster includes Shosho, Bonz, George Fenollosa (junior), Batu Kayaarasi (junior), AJ Cusano (sophomore), Evan Greene (sophomore), Andrew Fappiano (sophomore), Nolan Loose (sophomore), Calder Hutchison (freshman), Aaron Kowalnek, Joel Kowalnek, Niko Piironen (freshman), and Radick.
The girls’ roster includes Batteres, Hickey, Mattea Jerbi (sophomore), Addi Smith (sophomore), Brown, Neyda Chusino (freshman), Camila Cordova (freshman), Mary Gahm (freshman), and Katie Soehnlein (freshman).