Cone Joins U.S. Team
June 21, 2011
When the U.S. Ski Team released its nominations for the 2011-12 National Team, Rob Cone (Killington, Vt.), a first-year standout at Middlebury College was among them. Cone’s selection marked a change from previous U.S. team selections and development models as remarkably few athletes have made the jump from the college ranks to the US Ski Team. Cone is the first male athlete who has competed on a collegiate team, without a post graduate year, to qualify for the US Team in over three decades.
In his early years as a junior racer, Cone spent much of his time tearing around the woods and trails in his hometown of Killington, Vermont. Blasting through the J5, J4 and J3 ranks, Cone began his four-year education at Burke Mountain Academy (BMA). Rob was a skilled J2 that skied at a level greater than his tall and thin frame would belie. Although he was fast and progressing, Cone was no prodigy. The secret to Cone’s success as a young racer has been steady and incremental development. His first year in college allowed him the time and venue to put on elite-level mass and strength; size he would need to reach an international level of racing.
Despite being one of the top US skiers born in 1992, Cone was passed over for the U.S. Development Team after his high school years. Unflappable, Cone took the setback in stride and chose to attend Middlebury College in the fall of 2011. "Many were confused, surprised, and even let down that I didn't take a Post Graduate (PG) year after my four years of high school at Burke,“ Cone explains, quietly pointing to college’s reputation as a place to go when completed with elite-level skiing. Cone’s performance suggested otherwise:
Cone skied to the podium four times in collegiate races. His FIS world rankings improved quickly, and in February he was ranked 12th in the world in slalom and 33rd in GS amongst skiers his age, a ranking that put Cone as the top male slalom skier in the US for his age. It was this ranking that allowed Cone to reach US Ski Team Criteria for the development team. “It hit me that Rob was in range of a higher goal” said Middlebury Alpine coach, Stever Bartlett. “At that point, it was Rob’s potential beyond college that we were pushing to get done.”
Cone agreed, adding, “Aside from providing a new location and program for training, Middlebury was able to provide an environment where I was challenged to progress with a group of male athletes, striving for the same academic and athletic goals. This brought my level of "play" much higher and had the largest affect on my successful season. I was a tentative high school graduate, eyeing PG-ing and college. After experiencing my first year at Middlebury, I now know skiing isn't over when college arrives."
Cone travels to Mt Hood for his first training sessions with the US Ski Team on June 14th and will continue with the team during the 2011-12 season. He will take a leave of absence from Middlebury College where he will be missed but fondly cheered for during the next phase of his career as a ski racer.
- Stever Bartlett -