Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vermont Nets Perfect Season & Third Straight EISA Championship

Middlebury's Hig Roberts slaying to the win in slalom (photo: Cory Ransom)

NEWRY/RUMFORD, Maine — Despite a strong effort by Dartmouth to block the University of Vermont from claiming a perfect season, the Catamounts rebounded on Saturday to notch their third consecutive EISA title and to complete a clean sweep of all EISA Carnivals in 2013. Vermont pulled off the win by amassing 939.5 points to Dartmouth’s 908.5. The University of New Hampshire finished third with 690 points, just one point ahead of fourth-place Middlebury.

With fast snow and NCAA spots on the line, Nordic racing action concluded Saturday with 10 and 15-kilometer mass-start freestyle races at Black Mountain.

Unlike the twisting and technical laps of last weekend's Middlebury race loop, Saturday's race course was relatively simple, though not easy. Racers shot down a long hill before ascending two massive climbs, including Black Mountain's infamous “High School Hill”.

“The course was brutal,” said Colby’s John Dixon, “but the coverage was good and the conditions were fair.”

Scott Patterson made it a perfect season in the freestyle races with another decisive victory in the men's event. The UVM Junior has skied every skate race with the same game plan: Get out front and leave the rest of the field to fend for themselves.

In similar fashion to last weekend's skate event, it was Dartmouth's Sam Tarling and David Sinclair who gave chase early on. Neither was able to match the pace of Patterson, however. Tarling finished in second place for the second consecutive day, as Sinclair drifted back to 12th. It was another familiar Dartmouth skier, Silas Talbot, who took the final podium spot in third.

The strong presence of the Dartmouth men at the top of the results sheet led the Big Green to another victory in the team score for the event, but it was not enough to hold off the Catamounts overall.

The women's race was nearly the opposite at the front of the field. Instead of a solo racer out front, the battle for first came down to an exciting sprint finish between Dartmouth's Mary O'Connell, yesterday's 5k classic winner, and UVM's Anja Gruber. In the final meters it was O'Connell who took the win by only a tenth of a second, securing her third consecutive EISA victory this season.

Finishing in third place behind Gruber was another Catamount, UVM's Linda Dandvind-Malm. The top five was rounded out by two Annie's: Pokorny of Middlebury and Hart of Dartmouth.

A little under an hour away at Sunday River, light snowfall and mild temperatures greeted the slalom skiers in the alpine races. Middlebury’s Hig Roberts claimed his first victory of the season in the men’s race after first run winner Jonathan Nordbotten of Vermont skied out on a bumpy second run.

“I’ve been really fast in slalom this year, just on one runs usually. Basically, on first runs I’ve been in there. And second runs, I’ve not been strong with the groove, not putting down two. But today’s I just knew I had to do it, last carnival,” noted a pleased Roberts.

Catamount Tim Kelley proved his return to form by placing second in the race, and his teammate and overall slalom leader Travis Dawson added yet another podium to his collection in third.

In the women’s slalom, Vermont’s Kate Ryley proved she’s prepared to defend her NCAA title. She logged the fastest time both runs to combine for the victory over Dartmouth’s Lizzie Kistler (who tied Ryley’s second run winning pace). Catamount Kristina Riis-Johannessen was able to hold a podium spot in third.

“I think we’re going to take a little break and then train [before NCAAs]. I feel like I was in a rut the last few weeks; I’ve been struggling…. I just need to take it back a step and start training and getting good feelings,” remarked Ryley after the win.

Athletes who qualified to the NCAA Championships in Middlebury, Vt. will spend the next two weeks preparing for the national competition while other skiers now look forward to spring series events including Eastern Cup Finals, NorAm Finals, U.S. Nationals, and Canadian Nationals.

Team scores at the conclusion of the Bates Carnival/EISA Championships:
1.   UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT 939.5                         
2.   DARTMOUTH COLLEGE 908.5                         
3.   UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE 690.0                         
4.   MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE 689.0                         
5.   WILLIAMS COLLEGE 568.0                         
6.   BATES COLLEGE 515.0                         
7.   COLBY COLLEGE 492.0                         
8.   ST LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY 399.0                         
9.   HARVARD UNIVERSITY 378.5                        
10.  ST MICHAELS COLLEGE 287.0                        
11.  BOWDOIN COLLEGE 183.0                        
12.  BOSTON COLLEGE 154.0                        
13.  UNIVERSITY OF ME -PRESQUE ISLE 133.0                        
14.  PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY 123.5                        
15.  COLBY SAWYER COLLEGE 58.0                        
16.  CLARKSON UNIVERSITY 9.0                        

Adam Terko contributed to this report.