NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – North Salem’s Eoghan Sweeney is in Sun Valley, Idaho, this week to compete in the U.S. National Collegiate Championships as co-captain of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Alpine Ski Team.
A total of 20 teams in the New York region competed to go to nationals. Intercollegiate competition narrowed the number to 12 and then finally to two: RPI and Cornell.
Sweeney, a 2009 graduate of North Salem High School and skier on the high school team, is a senior at RPI.
“It’s a very demanding sport,” Sweeney said. “You’ve got to be level-headed and well-prepared. You’ve got to make sure your equipment is in perfect shape – waxing, tuning. And you’ve got to be refreshed on the day of the race. You can’t do well if you’re not.”
The Sweeney family came from Dublin, Ireland, when Eoghan was 3, intending to stay for a year. But they decided to stay forever. Young Sweeney started skiing as a tot. By ninth grade, he was racing at Thunder Ridge in Patterson.
The next year he asked his father, Paraic, if he could join the Gore Mountain Ski Team, a travel league team. “Only if you get above a 95 percent grade average,” said the elder Sweeney. So Eoghan did – and he did.
“Skiing gets you in a unique state of mind,” he said. “All your cares drop away. It’s just you, and your friends, and the mountain. One day I hope to pass my passion on to other people.”
Slalom skiing is now Sweeney’s specialty. “My mind goes blank the minute I go through the starting gate,” he said. “It all happens in a flash. Then I’m at the bottom. I either did well or I didn’t.”
Until this point, most of Sweeney’s slalom courses have been in the 40-second to a minute range. The national course will be more strenuous, taking about a minute and 20 seconds.
He quoted his favorite slogan: “Prior preparation prevents poor performance” and suggested it could be applied to everything in life.