It was a winter to remember for the athletic department at Paul Smith’s College, and thankfully not for reasons pertaining to COVID-19.
When the pandemic erupted two years ago, the initial moves across the country were to cancel sports events and keep athletes safe. This carried over, to a lesser degree, to the winter of 2021-2022.
In reviewing the past six months, PSC Bobcat teams got back to the basics of trying to win games and competitions with the specter of COVID still present.
PSC was led in this endeavor by the Nordic ski team which won four national team titles and two individual crowns in the United States Collegiate Ski Association’s recent championships in Lake Placid. Prior to this, it had been nearly 60 years since a PSC team won a national championship.
Other Bobcat squads also had memorable seasons. One by one, here they are.
The Bobcats sent two pairs of athletes to the Jack and Jill meet at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. The event was held in early March.
PSC was paced by outstanding performances from Zachary Cowperthwait and Hannah Aldrich who emerged victorious in six events and won the overall championship of the meet.
Men’s coach Keith Braun said the pairs, which also included Danny Miner and Allie Howard, worked together in the log roll, pulp toss, crosscut sawing, standing block chop and underhand chop.
“The success of the PSC teams really speaks to the competitors’ dedication to developing themselves as athletes and learning the intricacies of their sport,” continued Braun. “Typically, each competitor needs to hone their skill in only a handful of disciplines, but Zach, Hannah, Danny and Allie have shown that with focused training and a little bit of extra grit you can be successful across the board.”
This meet was atypical of a normal competition which usually sees six-person teams instead of pairs.
PSC women’s coach Kate Snyder did double duty in Storrs, as she helped guide her athletes and competed in the professional division.
“It was great to have been part of the team out here representing Paul Smith’s College. We were able to watch the pros chop and saw throughout the day, which gives younger athletes a great perspective,” Snyder said. “Both PSC teams had excellent performances, and we look forward to bringing the same energy to the next meet at SUNY ESF later this month.”
The Bobcats ended the season ranked 15th nationally, their highest mark in over a decade. PSC finished the regular season with eight straight wins to secure an 8-6 conference record and a 11-10 overall mark before dropping the Yankee Small College Conference quarterfinal game to an equally hot Great Bay team.
It was a satisfying showing for a team that didn’t play in the first year of the pandemic, and had many games this season either canceled or postponed. It was nearly impossible to get into any kind of playing rhythm.
“I’m extremely proud of this team,” said third year coach Josh Clemens. “In a season where momentum was the hardest thing to grasp, we were able to turn the year around. Losing a few close ones in the middle of the hardest stretch of the season could have ruined a lot of weak-minded teams, but we kept moving. I want to thank our senior leadership and all of our team members for keeping the train on the track and the team culture stable.”
Senior guard Kenny Smith averaged 15 points per game and was ranked in the conference top 10 in rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Smith was named second team All-Conference and Honorary Mention All American.
Another senior backcourt player, Eddie Kwaw, a transfer from Hudson Valley Community College, led the league in average points.
Academically, senior center Bailey Loatman and junior guard Ryan Luzzi were named Academic All Americans.
Next season, the Bobcats plan to return 17 student athletes from this year’s roster prompting Clemens to remark, “we are definitely not in a rebuild, just a reload.”
The Bobcats went three seasons without winning a game, but in 2021-2022, Clemens also took over the women’s program and brought in a strong group of freshmen that changed the culture. The result: a respectable fifth place conference finish with a 6-8 record and 9-10 overall on the season.
PSC was led by three freshmen including two top-five scorers in the conference, Jordan Louis and Jastic Eleby. They were anchored on defense by Jayla Gray, who ranked third in the conference in rebounding and fourth in blocks. These additions, along with a dedicated group of returners, were able to have their best season in over a decade.
“It was a wonderful season by everyone on this team,” reflected Clemens. “This is a spectacular group of student/athletes with an extremely bright future.”
PSC won its first playoff game of the post-season, defeating NHTI, prior to falling to eventual national champion Central Maine.
The YSCC recognized the Bobcat’s season by naming Louis first team All-Conference. Senior forward Shannon McPheters and sophomore guard Keely VanValkenburgh were named Academic All Americans.
The Lady Bobcats will return its entire roster next year and is expected to add some more depth in the off-season. “This was a great foundational year, but we have to stay hungry,” said Clemens. “There’s a lot of work left to get where we want to be.”
The 2021 U.S. Snowshoe Nationals in Eau Claire, Wis. was a victim of the pandemic. When it was decided to hold the 2022 event, Eau Clair was offered a make-good, but declined the offer due to the Omicron variant.
Enter Cable, Wis. as a worthy substitute venue, one that agreed with the PSC snowshoers. A total of 13 Bobcats competed in mid-winter conditions near the shores of Lake Superior.
Zack Sprott-Scribner paced the Bobcats with a sixth-place finish overall in the championship 10K race. He covered the hilly course in 44 minutes, 5 seconds to win the 20-29 age category for the men.
Sprott-Scribner’s result was just one back of the top five finish needed to earn a position on the U.S. National Team. His performance, however, was the closest any PSC athlete has come to earning that spot in 22 years.
In U20 racing, the Bobcats strided to first, second and third places with Ellen Haas winning the division and placing 15th overall, In the same competition her teammates, Samantha Severing and Ellie Judice placed second and third, respectively.
In the men’s U20 category, Paul Smith’s Carson Wohlers was second and Nathan Shader took third to earn their respective spots on the age group podium.
Paul Smith’s College enjoyed the return of alpine skiing with the men’s team taking an eighth-place overall finish and the women’s team finishing 10th overall in the USCSA Mid-East Conference. PSC raced against Colgate, Cornell, Syracuse, Binghamton and Hobart William Smith among the 16 institutions in the league.
PSC men and women had skiers finishing inside the top 20 on a weekly basis with TJ Swagler leading the skiing Bobcats.
For more information, visit paulsmiths.edu.
Photo at top: PSC snowshoe racer Zack Sprott-Scribner.
Photos courtesy of Greg Prellwitz and the US Snowshoe Association.