And just like that, the 2018 EISA Season has come to a close. The second day of the Middlebury Carnival/Regional Championship featured mass start, 15KM/20KM, skate races. Both competitions used the same 5KM loop from Friday’s races, which required women to complete three laps and men four laps. The only course change was that for their first lap, the second section featuring the A-Climb and Sugarhouse Downhill was eliminated. For the remaining loops, racers completed the full course including this climb.
Despite Rikert’s tireless grooming efforts, forty degree temperatures gave way to fairly mushy, wet skiing conditions. Although this made races more challenging for competitors, the smiles and emotion rendered in the finishing chute showed that perhaps this made the ending even sweeter, because racers really had to work for it.
The men’s 20KM race shot off at 10:00AM, with sixty of the East’s strongest competitors gathered at the start. Once the race began, the best men immediately organized themselves in strategized positions with Zane Fields (CBC) leading the top section, which was a mix of UVM, Dartmouth, and Middlebury. It wasn’t until around the third lap that Field’s made his move and started widening the gap between him and the pack. Treading on his heels was a group made up of Callan DeLine (DAR), Henry Harmeyer (UVM), Gavin McEwan (DAR), and Cully Brown (UVM) which was led by Williams’ Braden Becker. At this point, although Field’s gap made it appear that no one would catch him, Becker gave him a run for his money. On the last climb of the fourth lap, Becker had significantly caught up to Fields and broken away from the pack. Despite this hard effort, the first man to ascend that final hill onto the finishing stretch was Zane Fields, capturing the win in 46:06. Braden Becker was second, finishing in 46:17, and Cully Brown (UVM) grabbed third finishing in 46:31.
This win means Fields achieved his insane goal of winning every skate race in the 2018 EISA season (excluding the skate prologue race which didn’t count for NCAA points). When asked about his “perfect” season in the EISA circuit Fields commented, “I’m just ecstatic, this year’s been unbelievable, and I just want to thank everyone whose help me get to this place.” Although he took the win with a clear gap, Fields shared that it was no easy feat: “I wanted to lead and I wanted to extend that lead if I could. I was trying to test-out going hard from the start and trying to gap. I don’t think I’d do it again, it was really hard, but I’m glad it worked out for today.” For Fields, the other challenge he mentioned was the “thick, deep, slushy” conditions which contributed to his summation of the race that “it was just a big slog out there.” In Fields' case, he didn’t just endure the slog, he completely destroyed and conquered it.
Runner-Up Braden Becker (WIL) had his best performance of the season, which he was very happy about. Becker commented that it was good to end the season on a “good note” after suffering from injury earlier in the year. Going in Becker was unsure how he would perform after soreness from Friday’s racing: “I just tried to ski in the pack and stay conservative, and I guess I just had an extra gear.” That extra gear was definitely needed when navigating the hardest part of the course, which Becker said was the A-Climb on the second loop. “It was pretty tough and I got pretty bogged down.” What contributed to this difficulty was the sloppy, slow conditions which Becker still considered to be “a miracle" pulled off my Rikert due to the high temperatures they’ve endured. “The conditions were still amazing considering the weather we’ve been having.” This race put Becker in a qualifying spot for NCAA’s.
The third-place finisher of the men’s race was UVM senior Cully Brown, who was ecstatic about his result, it being a “nostalgic and emotional” experience since it was his last collegiate race. Brown said the hardest part for him was more mental. “About 10K in you look back and you have every colored suit behind you, and everybody is looking for those top spots…it’s aggressive but exciting.” To battle the wet conditions, Brown shared that he was just focusing on “staying as relaxed as possible and only working as hard as [he] needed to.” Brown is also in a qualifying spot for NCAA’s but it hasn’t been confirmed if he will be one of UVM’s representatives (being that they had more than three qualifiers). This final podium finish certainly shows what Brown is capable of. In the men’s team score, Henry Harmeyer (4th) and Juri Miosga (10th) helped Brown grab first for UVM with 115 points, ahead of Dartmouth with 103 points, and Middlebury in third with 101 points.
The women’s 15KM race which kicked off at 12:00PM ended up having the top three positions from Friday’s race stay exactly the same. Going in, it was no surprise that the main battle was going to be between Dartmouth’s All-Star Rookie, Katharine Ogden and UVM’s veteran powerhouse Alayna Sonnesyn. By the second lap, the two women broke off together with Dartmouth Skier’s Lydia Blanchet and Lauren Jortberg in the next pack. By the end of the second lap leading into the third lap, Ogden made her move and started to create a gap between her and Sonnesyn, that was significant enough to separate them but still opened up the chance of a last minute switch up, keeping fans on their toes. In the end, Ogden maintained her lead coming in at 38:19, with Sonnesyn coming in second in 38:54, and Lydia Blanchet coming in third in 39:16.
Ogden who felt very positive about her result said that she went in “with not too much of a plan, was just trying to go with the flow and see how it ended up.” Other than staying relaxed Ogden found the hardest part of the course to be the conditions. She laughed when commenting how “the hardest part of the course was the whole thing! It was so slushy and slow out there which was definitely hard skiing, but it was super fun.” When asked about her thoughts of the season coming to a close, Ogden found the experience to be bittersweet being that “it's nice to be winding down after a long season” yet she will miss racing against all of her fellow competitors in the EISA circuit.
Runner-Up Alayna Sonnesyn, found the race to be extremely emotional, being that just like Brown, it was her last EISA carnival ever. Sonnesyn commented that the tough climbing on course made you really have to dig deep but having her teammates present to cheer her on meant the world to her. “They reminded me that this was my last, last carnival and got me through it.” Conditions wise Sonnesyn found them to be “a little sloppy” but she felt that since “everybody had to deal with it so it was a fight to the finish and such a grind.” In response to how she feels about her college ski career being over, Sonnesyn was incredibly gracious and thankful: “I’m sad that my season is coming to a close. It’s been an incredible journey the last couple of years and I’m so thankful for everyone who has been a part of it. All the teammates I’ve had, all the coaches I’ve had, it’s been so amazing and I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Rounding out the podium was Dartmouth’s Lydia Blanchet who found the fact that the season is over crazy because it’s gone so fast: “The season just flew by!” When discussing her race she felt that the tough course conditions, which she described as “slow and slushy” made for some brutal racing. “The finishing chute felt like one of those dreams where you're like running through jello and never getting anywhere.” Nevertheless, Blanchet was happy with how she had pushed herself and stayed mentally strong throughout the race. In the women’s team competition, Lauren Jortberg (4th) helped her Dartmouth teammates grab first with 135 points, ahead of UVM in second with 113 points, and Middlebury in third with 103 points.
|WOMEN'S 15KM PODIUM - BLANCHET, OGDEN, SONNESYN|
This season has been filled with some exciting and outstanding performances making the 2018 EISA Season be one to be remembered. Winning Streaks began and ended, freshman newcomers came to the scene and tore it up, A male competitor went completely undefeated in one discipline, I would say overall it was pretty darn exciting. Although the season is done for most, there are two more races on the horizon for a select number of skiers. After team selections are made, 26 athletes, 13 men and 13 women from the East coast will be traveling to Steamboat Springs, CO to compete in the NCAA Championships from March 7th-10th. Live Streaming will be available so check it out and support this year's EISA qualifiers. Stay Tuned throughout the week for the for pictures and video recaps from this weekend!
Click here for photos from Day 2!
Click here for photos from Day 2!