Even as a freshman, Charley Field got a tap on her shoulder to try to lead the University of Alaska-Anchorage to national glory.
Field, 20, was one of three women alpine skiers the Seawolves entered in the 2015 NCAA Skiing Championships, taking the spot over six others who make up the team. The Seawolves finished ninth of 22 teams overall at the championships, which were held in Lake Placid, N.Y. from March 11 to 14.
"It was definitely a new experience, but it was a great one. It was really great being able to see all the teams enthusiastic about their athletes doing well," she said.
Field and the Seawolves had the opportunity to cheer on Calgarian Sean Alexander, who posted a top 10 in the men's slalom with an eighth-place showing. Field was no slouch herself, posting the team's top result in the women's giant slalom by placing 15th before ending up in 28th in the slalom.
"It was nice. I did really well this season in GS and I really wanted to do well at NCAAs and help my team out with as many points as I could make for them," she said. "I don't think it went as well as I would have liked, but I am pretty happy for being a freshman and being able to post such a great score."
Though the championships were a high-level event, Field recalled an extremely supportive atmosphere, even among those on different teams.
"It was amazing. Everybody was there supporting the team and it doesn't matter if they did well or if they did badly, you were there to help your team," she said. "Because of how valuable these points are, you want your athletes to do well.
"It's a friendly environment. I've raced a couple Nor-Ams and it's a lot different. It's very individual. You're there to ski your best and to be your best."
Seawolves head coach Sparky Anderson was encouraged by Field's season, and is excited to have her as a program cornerstone in seasons to come.
"It's a different approach going from a national team to an NCAA team, but I think she's an extremely smart athlete and adapted really well," Anderson said. "She clearly knows how to keep a lot of speed in her skis. She knows the fall line.
"It was really a matter of trying to clean up a little bit at the top of the turn, just a few technical things in order for her to ski a little cleaner. Hopefully that will help her to keep progressing."
Anderson said Field improved immensely in the slalom and giant slalom after coming in primarily as a speed racer.
"It's a good sign, and with somebody like Charley, she's young and she's only going to get faster," he said. "It's really encouraging, and for her to come in and make the NCAA Championship squad in her first year is a really good thing."
Leading into NCAAs, Field had two top-10 and five top-20 showings in the eight races she completed. She was also the top finisher on her team four times. Shortly after wrapping up the collegiate season, Field hit two Nor-Am Cup races at Burke Mountain in Vermont, scoring a 10th place and 31st place in two giant slaloms. She began the year as a 36-point skier and wrapped the year as a 23-point skier and explained the extra academic draws on her time make her appreciate whatever time she can allot to athletics that much more.
"It's a big, significant difference," she said. "Whenever you're out there on the slopes, you're able to enjoy being on the slopes. You just kind of ski better."
And Field has excelled in the classroom as well, making the NCAA's All-Academic Team by maintaining a 3.5 grade point average. In all, 20 Seawolves made the team.
"It's pretty hard on the road," she acknowledged. "It's different than when I took a gap year, but I actually really enjoy school.
"I've done well with the balancing. I'm happy with how I'm doing in school."
Field will wrap the season with the FIS Keurig Spring Series beginning April 7. She hopes to use the races as a springboard into her offseason as she prepares for a sophomore season with the Seawolves.
"(I want to end) being proud of my skiing, laying down a couple good runs and hopefully getting top three," she said. "I'm looking for some good skiing, having fun with my team."