Saturday, March 10, 2018

Dartmouth's Nef claims SL title; EISA takes 4 of 6 SL podium spots




Last night was a late one out at the famed Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, CO. The final NCAA alpine events, men’s and women’s slalom (SL), were held under the lights. The final run began well after 11:00 p.m. EST. 

It’s okay if you couldn’t stay awake for the races. It’s been a long winter. Last week’s Nor’easter was a doozy, and even I’m still tired from shoveling out the driveway. 

We’ve got the rundown for you.

What you really need to know is: it was a great night for EISA racers. They went out west and did what easterners do best (ski slalom turns).

In short: Dartmouth’s Tanguy Nef is the NCAA SL champion. UVM’s Sandy Vietze is runner-up, and his teammates Paula Moltzan and Francesca English went 2-3 in the women’s race. In case you’re counting, 4 of the 6 podium spots were taken by EISA skiers, 3 of whom are Catamounts.

When you take into account the entire NCAA Championships alpine races, EISA skiers took 7 of the 12 podium positions. (Which, I just noticed, is more than RMISA managed).

After all the races were run (alpine and Nordic), the University of Denver (DU) won the overall title — it’s 24th (!) They tallied 604 points. The University of Colorado claimed second with 563 points, and Dartmouth College climbed up to third (448.5). Last year’s champions, the University of Utah, were fourth this week with 385.5 points. And UVM comes home with 330 for fifth place. Middlebury College made it into the top-10 with 248.

In the men’s race, Tanguy Nef improved upon his GS result and took the overall win in a combined time of 1:20.49. He was in third position following the first run, and UVM’s Vietze was out in front by just one-tenth of a second. Then, Nef nailed the second run: “It was just perfect,” he said afterwards. He won the run and the race. Vietze struggled a bit during the second run (he ended up twelfth on the run) but still managed to take home second in 1:21.26.

Nef’s victory capped a stellar week for the Dartmouth men’s team: both he and teammate Brian McLaughlin head home tomorrow as individual national champs.

“It’s the best feeling you can get, I think. Especially winning not just for you, but for the team,” Nef said.

Dartmouth College's Tanguy Nef skiing GS earlier in the season.

Dartmouth College’s Head Men’s Coach Peter Dodge was proud of his two champions and pointed out that the key to their performances was their ability to race under pressure. The field is so deep at these championships that virtually any athlete could win. Keeping your head on straight is as important as nailing your turns.

“It’s unbelievable,” Dodge said. “I knew these guys could do it. You never know what’s going to happen. Anything could happen. For sure: Brian in GS, and Nef in Slalom…they had the ability. If you can get it together under all this pressure, that’s what’s really impressive to do, so I’m really proud of these guys.”

Third place in the men’s race went to Tobias Kogler (1:21.47) of the University of Denver, and Middlebury's Erik Arvidsson (1:21.75) made his mark at his first NCAA Championships by claiming fourth place, just one spot out from the podium.

Middlebury Assistant Coach Abby Copeland was thrilled with the first-year’s finish and noted that Arvidsson took time to study how some of the top skiers were racing the course before heading up for his own run.

“[Erik] actually came down to the finish and watched a couple of the first guys with me,” Copeland said. “I think it was good for him to be able to do that. He just settled right in. He knew exactly what he needed to do, and he went up, and he got a little course report, and he freakin’ crushed it. He just did exactly what he needed to do. And it was balanced and awesome skiing. We’re thrilled. We’re really thrilled.”

Counting Arvidsson’s result, 3 out of the top-4 places went to EISA skiers.

“I’m so proud of all of our eastern dudes,” Copeland said. “That is really a special thing, considering most of these Western guys are on national teams for their countries. It’s just really cool to have depth in the east like that.”

Men's SL podium.

Dartmouth College finished second in the men’s SL after tallying 74 points. DU took first with 79 points.

In the women’s race, DU’s Amelia Smart made it 2-for-2 and added a SL crown to the GS win she earned on Wednesday. Smart won the slalom in a combined time of 1:19.21, more than half-a-second ahead of UVM’s Moltzan (1:19.75). Moltzan’s teammate, Francesca English — who, like Arvidsson, is a first-year — raced spectacularly to claim the final podium spot in 1:20.41.

Moltzan, one of the consistent EISA leaders this season, was pumped about UVM’s results and — believe it or not — is already looking to the future.

“It was pretty awesome,” Moltzan said. “I’m super stoked for all my teammates, including Sandy and Francesca. Francesca is a freshman, so it’s a pretty bright future for her. And to have such a young team doing so well…it’s kind of amazing. I can’t wait for next year.”

The University of New Hampshire’s Genevieve Frigon capped the week with a strong sixth-place finish in 1:20.94, and Dartmouth’s Alexa Dlouhy took 10th in 1:22.09.

Frigon’s coach, Briank Blank, was thrilled about the Wildcat’s finish, citing increasing confidence throughout the week as helping Frigon to her All-America race today.

“I think both the sets suited her,” Blank said. “First run, she ran second, so that was really helpful for her. And second set, we ran something pretty similar in training, and she was skiing well and was confident. And was finishing every run in training leading up to the race. So I think her confidence was high and she was feeling good. She put two runs together today.”

Women's SL podium.

DU won the women’s SL race after tallying 91 points, and UVM came through with 78 for second place.

Thus ends the 2018 EISA ski season. I know. It's hard to believe. But what a way to send off the season: a couple of national individual champions, podium-finishes galore, up-and-coming young skiers already making their mark. I'm going to side with Moltzan on this one: I can't wait 'til next year.