Friday, February 23, 2018

Fields and Ogden take the final classic wins of the 2018 season on Day 1 of the Middlebury Carnival

The EISA Regional Championship and final carnival of the 2018 season took off today at the Rikert Nordic Center in Middlebury, VT. The first day kicked off with individual start, 5KM/10KM classic races on a 5KM loop, prompting men to complete the course twice and women only once. Demographically the course features two different loops that include some challenging gradual climbs and a couple long technical downhills that were tough to navigate. 

Weather-wise, although temperatures settled in the mid-thirties, gusts of wind made it significantly colder throughout the day. Conditions were rather icy and fast, but in good enough shape that Rikert deserved praise given the fact that the temperatures in Vermont hit almost 70 last week. The Men’s 10KM race went off first with the beginning competitors going off at 10:00AM. Colby’s Zane Fields came out on top, coming in at 24:19, ahead of UNH’s Peter Holmes who finished in 24:26, and Elliot Ketchel (BOW) had a breakout performance grabbing third, finishing the course in 24:34.

Fields was happy to end the 2018 EISA Season in the classic discipline on a good note, considering the fact that he considers himself more of a skate skier: “Classic has definitely gone better for me this year, but I’m ultimately looking forward to the skate race at NCAA’s.” Other than focusing on staying relaxed, Fields commented that the hardest part of the course was the second lip on the second hill: “We had Andrew out there screaming splits in my ear but I just felt like a puddle.” Nevertheless, Fields found something within himself to ski to a blazing finish and grab that last classic win as the season comes to a close. When looking forward Fields shared that he’s “super excited” about NCAA’s: “I’m a little nervous about altitude and how fast those guys are out there but I’m feeling strong so I’m hoping to do my best.”

Fields with Head Coach Tracey Cote after race 
Runner-Up Peter Holmes has also been a strong force in the classic discipline this season, being on the podium 4 out of the 5 classic races. Holmes was content with his race commenting how the conditions were significantly better than the previous day: “Rikert did a really good job with grooming, I thought it was going to be like a skating rink after warming up yesterday but it was really good out there.” When asked about the hardest part of the course Holmes shared, “That middle hill the second time was pretty tough, it was pretty chewed up and it was tough to get a good grip.” To combat these challenges Holmes commented that his strategy was just to “go for it from the get-go, and stay smooth throughout the first lap and really try to pick it up the second lap.” As a whole, Holmes said that he was feeling pretty good about how the classic season ended, “I’m really happy the way I skied the classic races all season, so I’m super stoked about that.” 

The Breakout of the day was well earned by Bowdoin’s Elliot Ketchel, who came in third and notched his first EISA podium. Ketchel, who was very happy with the outcome of his race shared that is strategy was all about pacing, “I wanted to take it easy and try to pace it really well and take the second lap a lot faster.” Armed with this strategy, Ketchel still faced a difficult course out there, with the hardest part for him being near top of the A-Climb: “there’s this little section, that for the last couple years hasn’t been in the course, because they haven’t had enough snow, and you kind of forget about it, but its right there, where you kind of feel like you want to die.” Overall this performance will add to Ketchel’s currently strong NCAA points, making his qualifying spot even more stable. In the men’s team results UVM took the win with Bill Harmeyer, Juri Miosga, and Karl Schulz going 6, 7, 8, allowing them to earn 105 points. Middlebury came in second with 100 points and Dartmouth in third with 98 points. 
MEN'S 10K Podium - Elliot Ketchel, Zane Fields, Peter Holmes
In the women’s race that kicked off at noon, the regulars took over the podium with Katharine Ogden sweeping the results and finishing in a time of 13:12, ahead of UVM’s Alayna Sonnesyn coming in second with a time of 13:26, and Lydia Blanchet (DAR) in third in a time of 13:31. 

Ogden was very happy with her race being that “it was a good course and it favored some pretty high tempo skiing which was right up [her] alley.” When asked about the most challenging part of the course Ogden shared that it was definitely the downhills. “I went in pretty nervous about the icy downhills - I ran into a couple of the boys from my team who crashed out and it made me a little worried. But I ended up skiing them pretty conservatively so I wouldn’t necessarily say that was the hardest part, but it was definitely the most intimidating.” Ogden commented that she knew the course today was going to be “fast and furious” so she just wanted to go as hard as she could.

Runner-Up Alayna Sonnesyn (UVM) was happy with her race as well but found it to be a bittersweet experience being that she is a senior and this was her last classic race ever in the EISA circuit. Sonnesyn applauded Rikert for what they provided on course, knowing first hand that Vermont has been hit with a “meltdown,” due to the high temps. Sonnesyn felt that the hardest part was nearing the top of the course: “On the last finger is this gradual uphill and you do a U-turn and it just keeps climbing. I was definitely feeling pretty tired at that point but I had some of my teammates out there cheering me on and they definitely pushed me through it.” When looking at all of her classic results, Sonnesyn was content. “I’m really bummed that it’s over. I was hoping to get that classic Bibb but didn’t quite get that goal, but still really happy with my classic results and really happy with my senior season.” 

Sonnesyn Finishing her final EISA Classic Race 
Dartmouth’s Lydia Blanchet pulled out another podium performance this week coming in third which she was excited about: “It went by super quick out there and it was kind of over as soon as it started.” Blanchet agreed with Sonnesyn that the hardest part of the course was the last finger. “You had to dig really deep because there’s some really consistent climbing there. You are really trying to stay focused and go hard for that whole uphill.” Despite this challenge, Blanchet explained how the course was pretty easy when conceptualizing it in your head; “It had three big climbs and three big downhills, so knowing this I was just trying to push as hard as I could over pretty much…everything.” Blanchet was blown away by the fact the season is almost over but looking towards NCAA’s with positive feelings. In the women’s team results Lauren Jortberg (4th) added to her teammate's scores allowing Dartmouth to take the win with 135 points, ahead of UVM with 114 points, and Middlebury with 101 points. 
Women's 5KM Podium - Blanchet, Ogden, Sonnesyn
Tomorrow the racing action will continue with the final skate race bringing the 2018 EISA season to a close. The featured events are 15KM/20KM, mass start skate races, men starting first at 10:00AM. This race will be meaningful for all racers in different ways: for some, it is their final chance to try to qualify for NCAA’s, other’s it's the end of a quick season, and for a few, it will be the last time they race in the EISA circuit. Wishing all skiers the best of luck tomorrow and looking forward to an exciting final day. 
Click here for photos from Day 1!