Monday, February 3, 2014

UVM Wins Emotional Home Carnival, Sweeps Individual Nordic Race Wins

STOWE, VT. — The race trails at Trapp Family Lodge were less a place of competition and more a one of camaraderie and togetherness at the UVM winter carnival this weekend.  Dartmouth's Nordic teams took the final carnival day to pay respect to their teammate, and many other racers elected to wear green in solidarity.  The competitive atmosphere of Saturday's sprints turned tangibly to one of somber unity on Sunday, and the whole of the collegiate circuit banded together to replace sadness with friendship.  Though Dartmouth was absent from Sunday's competition, the whole of their ski team family was on the minds of those racing.

Jorgen Grav sprinting to the first of two individual victories this weekend. (Ian Nesbitt/EISA)
Saturday began sunny and slightly colder than anticipated, with hardwax conditions lingering through the end of both the mens' and womens' qualification rounds.  Jorgen Grav showed that he is the Catamount to beat this weekend, scoring two individual victories in collegiate competition.  Grav was the lone EISA skier to qualify for the men's A-final in the open 1.3k classical sprint competition, and showed his fitness on Sunday as well by winning the 10k skate race outright.  "That last hill made [the sprints] really tough," Grav said in reference to Stowe's difficult terrain, "and it was a hard day to wax for."  The air temperature hovered just above freezing for much of the afternoon, making conditions very challenging for coaches.  Some skiers even elected to double pole the 1.3k course on skate skis.

The typical leaderboard was shaken up slightly as teams with sprinters got the rare opportunity to showcase their speed.  Bates' men took the morning by storm, putting three skiers in the top ten (Jordan Buetow, 4th; Alex Hamilton, 6th; Nick Michaud, 9th).  The show of speed gave the Bobcats their first ever team victory on the circuit.  Buetow was not able to advance through the sprint quarterfinals, but Michaud and Hamilton skied all the way to the B-final.

Next was Dartmouth, led by Silas Talbot (5th) and Fabian Stocek (8th).  Stocek continued his impressive first season of collegiate racing but was not able to advance through the sprint heats of the men's open race. Talbot advanced all the way through the rounds and placed second in the B-final.  Dartmouth's third scorer was David Sinclair in 12th.  Sinclair, a master of quick tempo racing, was not able to advance past the quarterfinals.

Williams notched its first team podium of the season, placing three skiers in the top-20.  Eli Hoenig (13th) and Kalle Jahn (14th) led the way for the Ephs, with sprint tactician Jahn skiing all the way through to 4th in the B-final.  Hans Halvorsen, a sprint specialist himself, was not on the scoring roster but would have slotted 11th in collegiate competition.

John Dixon of Colby raced to the first podium of his collegiate career, finishing second. Dixon, a sprint specialist, did not advance from the quarterfinals, possibly electing to conserve energy for Sunday.  Frederic Touchette of Laval also stepped onto the podium on Saturday.  Eric Lustgarten, another sprint specialist, skied to seventh, and Austin Cobb (Middlebury) rounded out the top-10.

Stella Holt (Middlebury) leads Hannah Cole (Williams) in the quarterfinal of the women's sprint heats. (Ian Nesbitt/EISA)
The women's race was similarly exciting.  Linda Danvind-Malm was the second Catamount to ski to collegiate victory at the home carnival Saturday.  She also became the second Catamount woman to sweep collegiate race wins at a carnival this year, the other being Anya Gruber.  Although Danvind-Malm did not advance through her quarterfinal heat, she had the fastest collegiate qualifying time by more than a second over Dartmouth's Annie Hart.

The Middlebury women scored big in Saturday's race, as Stella Holt and Heather Mooney skied to 3rd and 4th respectively, and Kelsey Phinney was 10th.  Mooney skied the course to her advantage, using her powerful strides to win her quarterfinal and place fifth in the A-final.  "The tracks were so firm, so it was really fast and fun," she said of the conditions.  "The uphill finish meant that you could really make your way up through the the heat if you had good skis, no matter where you were at the bottom."  Holt, Mooney, and Phinney led the Middlebury women to top honors, and completed the rare NESCAC sweep of the top step of the team podium.

Dartmouth trailed Midd by just ten points, on the back of another podium finish by Annie Hart (2nd) and solid races by Isabel Caldwell (9th) and Carly Wynn (13th).  Hart was the second of two EISA skiers in the A-final.  Caldwell skied to the finals as well.

On the back of the win by Danvind-Malm and a 6th-place finish by Gruber, the UVM women took third.  Madison Keeffe (T-31st) was the third scorer for the Catamounts.

Also scoring top-10s were Kaitlynn Miller (Bowdoin; 5th), Lizzie Gill (UNH; 7th), and Camille Pepin (Laval; 8th).

Linda Danvind-Malm skating to her second race win of UVM's home carnival weekend. (Ian Nesbitt/EISA)
Wet snowfall overnight at the Trapp Family Lodge created fast, slightly glazed morning conditions for Sunday's 5/10k freestyle event. Linda Danvind-Malm and Anya Gruber went 1-2 to lead the Catamounts to their sole team victory of the weekend.   "Anya and I are splitting wins and pushing each other all the time, so this weekend I felt good," Danvind-Malm said of her teammate.  "It's been a fun season.  We are very close and we feel the friendship makes us both better."  Madison Keeffe (41st) again rounded out the scoring.

Middlebury's women followed the Catamounts team win closely in the 5k, as they very nearly put three in the top-15 for the second day in a row.  Stella Holt was 4th, Heather Mooney was 8th, and Kaitlin Fink was 13th, just six seconds from a top-10.  This was the strongest team carnival in a long time for a very strong Midd women's squad, and the result should gain them confidence in the second half of the season.

UNH placed third, thanks in large part to a career-best third place finish from Katrin Larusson.  Elizabeth Izzo was 12th and Emily Larson skied to 17th on the day.  The women got a strong day started for the Wildcats, as their men's team would put up top honors later in the day.

Other top-10 finishers: Jen Rolfes (Harvard; 5th), Hannah Cole (Williams; 6th), Myriam Paquette (Laval; 7th), and Colby first-years Olivia Amber and Amy Bianco each scored another top-10, placing 9th and 10th, respectively.

Eirik Fosnaes on his way to second in the men's 10k skate. (Ian Nesbitt/EISA)

The mens' race was once again dominated by Jorgen Grav.  Grav skied to a 26-second victory over UNH's Eirik Fosnaes, who led the field by 13 seconds at one point, according to a source tracking split times.  Grav's teammate, Rogan Brown, rounded out the mens' podium.

The team score on Sunday was dominated by UNH, who put all three scorers in the top-10.  After Fosnaes, Johnny Springer (8th) and Per Lindgren (10th) racked up huge points for the Wildcats.  Springer skied an inspired and aggressive second lap for his second-in-a-row 8th-place finish in a skate race.

Williams followed up their strong sprint with an even stronger distance race, placing second on the day by barely eking out UVM.  Will Wicherski put up his first top-5 of the season, finishing fourth, and Eli Hoenig continued his fast first year as an Eph with a 7th place finish.  His brother Isaac was the third scorer in 17th.  Wicherski and his Williams teammates wore green paint on their faces as a tribute to the absent Dartmouth team, as did several other racers including Johnny Springer, Sean Woods of Bates, and Middlebury teammates Jack Steele and Eliot Neal.

UVM, once again missing the spark from Scott Patterson, was third on the day.

Rounding out the top-10 were David Gregoire (Laval; 5th), James Crimp (Bowdoin; 6th), and Frederic Touchette (Laval; 8th).

The carnival circuit heads to Dartmouth next week, where Nordic races will be held at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury Common, VT., a poignant coincidence considering the tragedy that befell the team at the Craftsbury Marathon this weekend.  Our hearts and minds are with the Tucker family and the entirety of the Dartmouth community as they honor and remember the life of Torin.