Freshman Chelsea Laswell
Jan. 12, 2006
By Tom Quinn Deseret Morning News
SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah's ski team has a new ringer. Her name is Chelsea Laswell, and believe it or not, she's only 19.
After losing five of their top racers to graduation at the end of last season, the Utes' brass went looking for a rather uncommon commodity: a freshman (or two) who could come in and contribute immediately.
Unfortunately for the Utes, such athletes aren't just hard to find, they're about as rare as owls' teeth.
Enter Laswell, a Park City resident and a 2004 graduate of the local Winter Sports School. This Seattle native was already a seasoned veteran, and most importantly, had four full years of eligibility left.
Laswell said the coaches weren't looking for someone with potential; they wanted someone who could show up and make an immediate impact. "We'll see if that's really what happens," she said.
Despite her relative youth, Laswell has more than enough experience to live up to her billing as a freshman savior. She began skiing at age 2, nearly before she learned to walk. Her parents enrolled her in racing school at 6, and she has been involved in the skiing world to one degree or another ever since.
"I've been skiing for as long as I can remember, but I didn't really get serious until I was about 12 or 13," Laswell said. "I was pretty much just goofing off before then."
Now, just six years later, the youngest member of the Utah women's ski team must adjust to her role as one of the squad's leaders and primary contributors. After suffering from a few freshman jitters at the beginning of the training season, Laswell quickly regained the confidence that contributed to her status as a blue-chip recruit.
"I was pretty nervous when school started, but I settled in pretty quickly," she said. "I've raced against most of these girls before, so I have a pretty good idea of how I measure up."
The NCAA season doesn't begin until mid-January, but Laswell and Co. have been working out at least five days a week since August. In addition to their reps on the slopes, the team has a routine of aerobic and strength drills that, according to Laswell, "you just have to see to understand."
Downhill skiers aren't usually seen as athletes and don't typically get the same level of recognition as some of the other NCAA sports. Laswell, however, will be the first to tell you that skiing requires much more than the ability to point one's toes while in a tuck position.
"A lot of people don't understand the dynamics of skiing," she said. "It's really technical. I've been working on the same turn for the last 17 years, and I still don't have it right."
Even though Laswell said that her turns aren't quite perfect, past experience suggests that she already has everything she needs to do well and then some.