Bucknell's Two-Sport Star
Oct. 30, 2006
By Jon Terry, Bucknell Athletic Communications
Like many American twentysomethings, Teri Schlang enjoys golfing and skiing. What separates the Bucknell senior from the average weekender, however, is actual talent.
For the last four years she has put her unique versatility on display in both sports at the intercollegiate level, and following a record-setting fall golf season, Schlang can also now show off gold medals from both sports. Interestingly, while she was practically bred to be a competitive skier, Schlang walked into the Bucknell varsity golf program with comparatively very little experience on the links, but the golf course is where she has really helped a team take shape.
It was at the age of two when young Teri would accompany her parents, David and Dayna, on regular weekend trips from their home in Albany, New York, to the family's chalet at Okemo Mountain in Southern Vermont. Starting at age three she went to ski school while her parents burned up the slopes, but by the age of seven she had outgrown the kids' classes.
Schlang progressed through Okemo's junior racing program for the next five years, and finally in the seventh and eighth grade she was good enough to enroll in a winter-term ski academy. Each November she was taken out of her public middle school in Albany and went off with about 25 other hopefuls to race competitively while receiving daily academic tutoring, and when the snow melted in April, back home she went. After two years of that nomadic lifestyle and struggling to match up the academic curricula between the two schools, she and her parents decided that a year-round sports academy would make more sense in all regards for high school.
The Schlangs found the private Stratton Mountain School, also in the heart of Vermont's Green Mountains, and she skied there at an international level throughout her four years of high school, and in fact even held an international ranking.
"We skied upwards of 50 races a year and traveled all over the world," Schlang fondly recalls. "We raced in Switzerland and Canada and all over the U.S. in places like Colorado and California."
In the fall, the lifestyle at SMS is similar to any other high school, except for the much prettier scenery and the required 6 a.m. daily workouts. The training is actually dryland for the majority of the year, with traditional college preparatory classes held during the day. After school there are more workouts, and in the fall every student plays on the SMS soccer team (lacrosse and golf are the spring sports of choice).
Every November the school falls into an intersession, where the students take one pass/fail course while traveling and training seriously for the coming winter racing season. The winter routine begins in December, consisting of a light workout followed by a full morning of skiing under the watchful eye of the school's full-time, professional coaches, most of whom have significant world-class experience. Under their expert tutelage, Schlang won Eastern Regional titles in 2001 and 2002 and captured the Vermont Cup in 2003.
One thing that SMS students have in common with their peers at traditional high schools is that the seniors typically have some significant decisions to make about their futures. In the case of the Stratton kids, the decision is whether to pursue a full-time racing schedule or go off to college. For Schlang, the decision was easy.
"I knew I was going to go to college," says Schlang, who graduated from SMS in a class of 26. "Part of me knew that if I was going to be on the U.S. Ski Team I would have already known it when I was 15 or 16. I went to Stratton Mountain School with the thought of one day skiing in college. I wanted to go to UNH or UVM or Middlebury or Dartmouth and ski."
Those plans strayed because of a seemingly "random" event, as Schlang describes it. One day during her freshman year, she happened to pick up a golf club.
Schlang also grew up around a golf course, as her father was a three-year golf letterman at Lehigh. Like many fledgling golfers, she caught the bug the day she picked up that club, although admittedly she wasn't very good at first.
"The summer before my junior year in high school is when I really got serious about working on my golf game," remembers Schlang, who played on two state championship golf teams at SMS. "Even in my senior year in high school I couldn't break 90. But I really liked the sport and thought I might want to try to play golf in college instead of skiing in college. I always heard how easy it was to play in college, since women's golf is still a very young sport at many schools. I also thought that I had more natural golf ability than natural ski ability."
As she got deeper into the college search, Richmond was the only school that she knew about that had the combination of academics and a golf program that interested her. In another twist of fate, in late November of her senior year in high school she mentioned her preference toward Richmond to a man who ran a junior golf association, and he suggested she take a look at Bucknell, noting its comparable academic reputation and growing women's golf program.
"I kind of brushed that advice aside, but I was working in the ski shop over Christmas break and two kids walked in and one was wearing Richmond sweatpants and the other was wearing Bucknell sweatpants. I started talking to the guy in the Bucknell pants and asked him if he liked Bucknell and would recommend applying there, and he said he liked it."
So at about 11:59 on New Year's Eve, Schlang beat the application deadline without ever stepping foot on the Bucknell campus. She followed it up with a phone call to Kevin Jamieson, who at the time was in his third year as head coach, and she said, "I hear you guys have a golf team. Are you looking for any players?"
"In January I came down by myself for a visit," recalls Schlang, "and on the drive home I called my parents and said, `I need to go to Bucknell. This is where I have to go to school.' I loved it here, and the fact that the coach would let me ski in the winter, which not many others would do, made the decision easy."
The decision, albeit one predicated on chance and fate, has proven to be rock solid, as Schlang has excelled in both sports. She has been a member of the club ski team throughout her time at Bucknell and currently serves as club president. She qualified for the USCSA nationals as a freshman after winning the Alleghany Conference and Eastern Regional titles. In 2004 she won the Alleghany Conference overall title again, winning eight out of 10 races.
On the golf course, Schlang became a regular in the Bison starting lineup in the fall of her freshman year, posting an 85.9 average in 11 rounds. By that spring she was frequently scoring in the 70s, and she placed fifth at the Bucknell Invitational and a very respectable 18th in her first Big South Championship. (Since the Patriot League does not currently sponsor women's golf, Bucknell competes in the Big South alongside golf juggernauts such as Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Birmingham-Southern and Winthrop.)
By 2005, Schlang was leading the team with an average in the low 80s, and last spring she carded a 77 in the final round of the Big South Championship to help the Bison post a school-record team score of 314 in a solid fifth-place finish. That set the stage for the recently concluded fall campaign, which was most certainly the finest stretch in the nine-year history of the program.
After a strong showing to start the year at Ball State's Cardinal Classic, Bucknell really got going in round two of the Nittany Lion Invitational in tough conditions at Penn State's famed Blue Course. The Bison equaled their team record with a 314, then followed with a 318 in the final round -- paced by a career-best 75 from Schlang -- and finished in sixth place, just one shot out of fourth. It was by far their best-ever standing in that talented field.
A week later the team returned home for its annual fall tournament and pulled out a one-shot victory over Lehigh, the first team tournament title in program history. Schlang, a very consistent ball-striker with a solid short game, took home additional hardware, winning her first career individual title after rounds of 76 and 75. Later that week she became the first Bucknell player ever to earn Big South Player of the Week honors.
Bucknell finished the fall with a second-place showing at the Rutgers Invitational (this time the Bison were nosed out by a single stroke to Columbia) and a strong third-place finish at Richmond's Spider Invitational.
Now, Schlang and experienced teammates such as former All-Big South performer Amy Loughney, Kathryn Batchelor, Deirdre Moran and Emily Chiodo, have their sights set on the conference championship in April in South Carolina.
She marvels at how much the program has grown in her four years at Bucknell and credits her teammates for ramping up their dedication to the sport for the team's success.
"There's really a better work ethic now than when I got here," she admits. "With my background, I came here prepared to work really hard, because that's what I had always done. So for me the transition wasn't that great. But now having been one of the older players on the team for awhile, I think a lot of the younger players see how that work can pay off. They see that I don't need anyone to tell me to work on my game, to putt a little extra if I'm not putting well, or to go to the range if my swing is a little off. When everyone started to realize that you don't only have to work on your golf game when coach tells you to work on your golf game, that you can come work at other times, that made a big, big difference. And now in the summer everyone goes home and plays golf."
As for balancing the two sports, Schlang admits that "the skiing is just something I do on the weekends now. Coach [Jamieson] knows when I go, and he knows that I will work on my game at other times. Having done so much skiing growing up, honestly it had become more of a burden. So coming to Bucknell and having so much fun while I ski, and being able to play golf and enjoy that as well, is like a dream come true."
A member of the Big South Academic Honor Roll, Schlang is a double major in psychology and English, with a focus on creative writing, and she is currently going through the application process for Teach for America, a national program that places recent college graduates in teaching positions in underprivileged schools in either urban or rural areas.
But before entering the "real world," Schlang has one more winter of collegiate skiing and the spring golf season to look forward to. While no one can predict how successful she and her teammates will be, one thing that is certain is that she will enjoy both of her pastimes every step of the way.