Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gruber, Danvind-Malm Impress Again; Patterson Sweeps Nordic Races

CRAFTSBURY COMMON, VT. — Scott Patterson of UVM made an impressive return to the collegiate circuit this weekend, besting a field of top U.S. racers at the 103rd Dartmouth Outing Club Winter Carnival twice in two races. In addition to the best collegiate skiers in the east, many of the fastest professional skiers in North America made the trip to Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom for a USSA SuperTour event featuring the highest level of domestic competition.

None of that seemed to phase Patterson who, even after spending several weeks racing in Europe, won both SuperTour events easily, and once again made the case that he is in a class all his own on the collegiate circuit. On Friday, Patterson won the 10 kilometer freestyle race by more than 45 seconds over Dartmouth's Patrick Caldwell. On Saturday, he finished nearly two minutes ahead of the second-place finisher in the collegiate field, teammate Jorgen Grav. Patterson has won both EISA skate races he's entered this year, and is one classic win away from a perfect score in NCAA Championship qualification.

Scott Patterson skating to commanding victory in the Datrmouth Carnival / SuperTour event. (Ian Nesbitt/EISA)
Patterson's dominance overshadowed a great team skiing effort from the Dartmouth men on Friday. Patrick Caldwell, David Sinclair, and Silas Talbot finished 2-3-4, a would-be podium sweep that vaulted the Big Green to a huge team win over UVM, with a score of 132. Senior Cam Woodworth finished 8th, and freshman Fabian Stocek 11th, further underscoring the team's depth and competitiveness.

Jorgen Grav (5th) and Rogan Brown (6th) helped UVM into second place. The 126 points put up by the Catamounts would have been good enough to win on most other days in EISA competition.

Williams College put no skiers in the top ten on Friday, but still managed to put 5 in the top-20 by placing Eli Hoenig 12th, Will Wicherski 13th, and Jordan Fields 15th. The solid skiing by the deep Ephs team capped off their third team podium in as many races, and continued their quietly impressive season. Vanya Rybkin was 17th and Isaac Hoenig was 19th on the day.

Akeo Maifield-Carucci (Harvard, 7th), Frederic Touchette (Laval, 9th), and James Crimp (Bowdoin, 10th) rounded out the top-10.

Linda Danvind-Malm charging to the finish line of the women's 5k freestyle race. (Ian Nesbitt/EISA)
In the women's race, it was all about UVM. Linda Danvind-Malm, Anja Gruber, and Stephanie Kirk went 1-2-3 for the first podium sweep of the year and a perfect team score of 141. Danvind-Malm's victory was her third in four races in the skate technique this year; her only non-win in a skate race was a 2nd-place finish to her teammate Anja Gruber at the UNH Carnival. Kirk notched her first skate podium of the year and has now locked up UVM's third NCAA qualification spot on the women's side.

The UNH women were 2nd, led by a 4th-place finish from Annika Taylor in her season debut. Taylor missed the podium by just four seconds, and showed that she is on form despite her early-season hiatus. Also scoring points for the Wildcats were Katrin Larusson in 7th and a career-best finish by Claire Galvin in 11th. Galvin's best result previously this season was a 26th in the skate race at the UVM carnival last weekend.

Following the Wildcats was Dartmouth, who had a relatively disappointing day on Craftsbury's hilly 5k course. Annie Hart was 5th, followed by Corey Stock in 9th and Isabel Caldwell in 15th. The Big Green would look to get back on track on Saturday.

Heather Mooney (Middlebury, 6th), Jen Rolfes (Harvard, 8th), and Kaitlynn Miller (Bowdoin, 10th) also scored top-10 finishes.

Scott Patterson looked relaxed and comfortable on course in the men's 20k classical race on Saturday. (Ian Nesbitt/EISA)
Saturday's race featured more of Patterson skiing away from the field. This time, he topped the collegiate race by nearly two minutes in the 20k classical event, and made winning a SuperTour look easy. "I didn't really worry about splits, just tried to ski my own race," said Patterson of the effort. "I really like the course here at Craftsbury, it's one of my favorite venues." The big climbs in the loop suited Patterson's fitness perfectly, and thus he was able to best national champion Reese Hanneman by more than 20 seconds.

This time it was UVM recording a near-sweep of a podium. The win by Patterson, 2nd by Grav, and 4th by Rogan Brown led UVM to a monstrous team victory of 42 points. Frederic Touchette of Laval placed a career-best third place to break the sweep.

Second on the day was a solid performance from UNH, placing Per Lindgren 5th and Eirik Fosnaes 6th, ending just four seconds apart over 20 kilometers. Johnny Springer was 23rd to round out the scoring for the Wildcats. All three racers finished in under an hour.

Coming off a great day on Friday, the Dartmouth men were third in the 20k. Silas Talbot and Cam Woodworth finished just half a second apart in 8th and 9th, and David Sinclair was the third scorer in 15th. Woodworth skied the second-fastest first lap, but paid for his speedy start and faded later in the race.

James Crimp (Bowdoin, 7th) and Jordan Fields (Williams, 10th) rounded out the top-10 on Saturday.

Anja Gruber skiing to her third classic distance win this year in as many races. (Ian Nesbitt/EISA)
Anja Gruber led the way again in Saturday's 15k classic race. While Gruber's previous two classic wins this year came by respectable margins of 15 and 20 seconds, this one came by one minute and eight seconds over the field. Gruber complimented her coaches on excellent wax choices all season long. "I had really good skis. We always have really good skis, it's pretty amazing," she said. When asked about her own personal successes and those of her teammate Linda Danvind-Malm this year, she cited training with Danvind-Malm as a key component to their success. "We ski similarly because we train together. She works so hard, it's inspiring."

Gruber's huge win and the third place by Danvind-Malm lifted the Catamounts to another win. Stephanie Kirk was sixth on the day as well.

Dartmouth's women had a better day on Saturday, led by Annie Hart (2nd). Hart's third-place first lap was followed by a fast second lap to take second place. Hart and Danvind-Malm skied nearly identical third laps and ended up just two seconds apart. Carly Wynn finished a season-best 7th, and Isabel Caldwell was 14th to round out the Big Green's scoring.

The Harvard women benefitted from a huge race from Jen Rolfes (4th) on Saturday, as they eked out Colby by just 1 point for a team podium. The race was Rolfes' best of her career and all but guarantees her a starting spot in the NCAA Championships in March. Teammates Rachel Hampton and Mailie Sapp were 23rd and 25th respectively and managed to hold off the Mules, who placed all three scorers in the top-20. Rolfes skied a remarkably consistent race, clocking in 4th on each of her three laps.

Kaitlynn Miller (Bowdoin, 5th), Annika Taylor (UNH, 8th), and Hannah Cole (Williams, 10th) complete Saturday's top-10.

Annie Hart leads teammate Isabel Caldwell through the end of the first lap in the women's race at Craftsbury Outdoor Center. (Ian Nesbitt/EISA)

The EISA carnival season continues next week at Prospect Mountain Nordic Center and Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, where Williams will host the final regular season Nordic and alpine races.