Steeves made steady growth in freshman season 

WMSC skier part of tight-knit Harvard ski team

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SIMON MERRYWEATHER - thriving in the ivy league Former Whistler Mountain Ski Club competitor Kelly Steeves just completed her first season with the Harvard Crimson.
  • photo by Simon Merryweather
  • thriving in the ivy league Former Whistler Mountain Ski Club competitor Kelly Steeves just completed her first season with the Harvard Crimson.

Just being a first-year student at Harvard University can be a challenge.

Add on the dedication it takes to be a high-performance athlete and you have Kelly Steeves' life since last fall.

It's a situation that can overwhelm even those who excel academically and athletically, but Harvard alpine head coach Tim Mitchell said Steeves has done well to strike the balance and perform strongly in both pursuits.

"(She's) probably one of the most low-maintenance athletes I have ever worked with," Mitchell said. "She knows what she needs to ski her best, and she's very good about making sure she checks all the boxes.

"Her skis are always tuned. She always gets enough sleep. She's really on top of taking care of the small details."

In terms of athletic results, Steeves, a two-time top FIS skier for the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, saved her best for last. She posted a season-high 21st in giant slalom at the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) championships. In the final run of that particular race, she placed 16th.

"I would say that I ended it better than it started. It definitely took some getting used to," said Steeves, who turns 19 on May 27, of her season. "The quality of the races that I was in (was) much higher than I was used to back home."

One adjustment Steeves needed to make early in the season was to make some sense of the icier and slicker snow that lined the eastern slopes for part of the season before a significant dump of snow brought about more of a resemblance to Whistler's conditions.

"I was mostly getting used to the new mountains and the new snow. I'd never really skied ice before except for a few days training in Vail, (Colo.)," Steeves, an environmental engineering student, recalled.

The social conditions around races were a culture shock for her as well, as races closer to home would tend to have 60 racers, all of whom Steeves knew. This season, that number doubled at some races, with Steeves knowing few outside her own team. The Crimson contingent was a small one, as there are nine racers on the team, though that number dwindled to six by season's end because of injuries.

"There's really a sense of team over here. You'd get to the race and every school would claim their table with a tablecloth in their school colours," she said. "It's an individual sport but it's really strange to think of it as a team sport, and that's what it really is here. Everyone's cheering on their team. There's a real sense of camaraderie."

Mitchell said Steeves' main strength in 2014-15 was her consistency, which is important not just to build confidence in a skier, but in NCAA competition, to score team points as well.

"It's a great anchor for the team. You don't see that too often, a freshman coming in and being able to do that for the team," he said.

However, Mitchell noted that as Steeves progresses, he's helping her tweak her approach to try to maximize her results.

"She definitely has more top end, so getting her to uncork that on a more regular basis was something we were working on throughout the season," he said. "We can work on getting her a little bit more top end (next season), even if she sacrifices a little bit of consistency to get that greater top end, that's fine because her consistency was beyond outstanding."

If things progress as planned, Mitchell explained, Steeves could establish herself as a force on the EISA circuit and beyond.

"It wouldn't be that much of a stretch for her to become a top 15 skier in the league and qualify for the NCAA national championships," he said. "That's very much in her reach in the next year or two. Beyond that, it's going to require a little bit more time on snow in the summers, a little bit more (picking) apart the technique a little more and rebuild a few aspects of her skiing."

Steeves' goal is to qualify for the NCAA championships in Steamboat Springs, Colo. in 2016.

"Based off my last result in GS, I think it's possible," she said.



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