Saturday, February 4, 2017

UVM Carnival Day 2: New Hampshire and Williams Pull Ahead in Classic Distance Races

Saturday at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont brought blue skies, fresh tracks, and plenty of teams hungry to topple day one champion Dartmouth in both the men’s and women’s classic interval start. By the conclusion of the 10-kilometer races, two schools had done just that as the University of New Hampshire women and the Williams men surged past the big green to claim top honors. Individually, it was Elizabeth Gill of the University of New Hampshire and Fabian Stocek of Dartmouth College who skied to the top of the podium.

Saturday’s course, a two lap, 5-kilometer loop challenged racers with sweeping, windy downhills followed by long-moderate climbs through the woods and up to the stadium. With below freezing temperatures and fresh cut tracks, it was a great day for classic skiing that challenged both strength and aerobic capacity.

In the women’s race, Elizabeth Gill rose to the top with a winning time of 33:52 to earn her first EISA victory of the season. Abigail Drach of Dartmouth claimed second, Katrin Larusson (UNH) was third, Silje Wilson (UNH) finished fourth, and Lydia Blanchet (Dartmouth) was fifth.

Gill felt that being relaxed and energized pre-race were two key components of her victory. “My strategy was to ski big and have fun,” she said, “I wanted to stay strong and engaged on the downhills.” Despite starting gaps of only 15 seconds, Gill stated that she had to work hard by herself to earn the victory. “It ended up being an on your own race. There was a lot of good cheering that kept me positive.”

Drach also felt that being relaxed was important for success in 10-kilometer racing. “I tried to focus more than usual on pacing and not go out as hard,” she said. Her conservation, she felt, aided her in navigating the downhill corners in the back of the woods and attacking the climbs that followed. “I definitely feel that I took the corners well and gained some time there. After, I felt like I was able to have a strong kick into the finish too.”

In the team competition, the University of New Hampshire women earned their first victory of the season with 135 points. Second place went to Dartmouth College with 123 points. Third place went to Colby College with 82 points.

In the men’s race, Fabian Stocek secured his forth EISA victory of the season, his third in a row, and his second of the weekend with a winning time of 29:49. UNH’s Peter Homes finished second, and Cully Brown (Vermont) was third. The top five was rounded out by a pair of skiers from Williams College with Braden Becker and Eli Hoenig in 4th and 5th respectively.

Despite his three previous wins in this season, Stocek was unsure of his chances going into Saturday’s race. “I definitely didn’t expect it,” he said. Stocek noted that the fresh snow and clear conditions suited him well and allowed him to use his fitness to his full advantage. “This win is definitely a confidence booster after last week’s classic race.” With a victory in classic distance under his belt, Stocek looks to be a strong all around contender come NCAA championships in March.

Brown was excited to rebound from a disappointing Friday performance at his home carnival and to achieve his first individual EISA podium. To reach the podium, Brown focused on tactics and transitions around a windy course where some tracks were blown away. “I tried to stay relaxed and to find the fastest line,” he said. Saturday’s result gives Brown confidence and establishes him as another strong classic skier for UVM. On his goals for the season, Brown emphasized qualifying and being selected for NCAAs as his primary focus. “I need to focus on the skate races to make it happen,” he said.

The Williams men earned their third team victory of the season with 109 points to runner-up Dartmouth’s 101 points. Third place went to the University of New Hampshire with 96 points.

The EISA will next travel to the Dartmouth Carnival. Nordic skiers will keep their fingers crossed for snow as they wait to hear where the races will take place.