Due to insufficient snow cover at the Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Center, the Carnival weekend has been moved back to the site of last weekend’s races: the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT.
The cold temperatures, wind chill, beautiful tracks, and blue skies with sunshine are also a repeat. But the icing on the déjà vu cake: Franz Bernstein of the University of Vermont and Ida Sargent of Dartmouth were again the classic champions.
This time though, the classic races were mass start 15 and 20 kilometer distance races. Today’s is the only NCAA points race of the weekend, as tomorrow’s events will be 3x5km team relays.
The women raced first, and the top three were no surprise: Sargent, wearing the yellow bib, proved she deserved the honor by winning with a decisive 24 second lead over UVM’s Caitlin Patterson. Sargent and Patterson both pulled their teams into the 1-2 positions as well. For the Dartmouth women, who have won every team event this season, the win was no surprise. Rosie Brennan, who has been a consistent top-3 racer all season, took third and teammate Katie Bono took 5th. UVM did put up a good fight however; Patterson’s teammates Jennie Bender and Caitlin Curran finished in 4th and 7th for their overall second place team score, just 8 points off first.
The only non-Dartmouth/UVM racer in the top nine was Natalie Ruppertsberger of Bates, who has had a stellar season so far and proved again today – taking the race lead for nearly a third of the race – that she has the speed to challenge her competitors on the podium. With Ruppertsberger’s result, Bates women took third.
The top 15 finishers in the men’s mass start 20 km race completed the three-lap course in under an hour. With one lap to go, Bernstein surged to a lead that his competitors could not follow, and he finished with a 14 second cushion. The surprise performance of the men’s race went to Saint Lawrence University’s Benjamin Knowles. Knowles made his move during the second half of the race, skiing just off the pace of Bernstein, in second, for the last kilometers of the race. Meanwhile, Patrick Johnson who also held on to the lead pack, fought his way up to third place and ended his race with a sprint to the finish with Knowles, who edged Johnson at the line by just seven tenths of a second.
Knowles led his teammates Zach Weatherell and Eric Wolcott, who finished in 11th and 12th, to a second place team score. Knowles, Weatherell, and Wolcott are all seniors, and are closely contesting for NCAA spots. They have consistently finished in the top-10 and top-15 all season, and as a team they have had continually stronger results. Placing third at the St Michael’s classic relays, they tied Middlebury for second at last weekend’s UVM carnival and now promise to be contenders for the top finish in tomorrow’s skate relay races.
Knowles said he didn’t want to the jinx the team by talking about tomorrow’s relays, but he has confidence in the team’s fitness and their ability to have a good result. Though the three are proficient at both techniques, Knowles thought they might even prove stronger at a skate relay, since Weatherell has had his best results in that technique. Knowles doesn’t take his competition lightly, however, pointing out that there are really five teams in contention for the relay win.
Speaking of his own results, Knowles said that taking the fall semester off school - living and training at home - was a definite advantage. Speaking to his team’s results, Knowles points to good, consistent training, and says that the past two weekends of success have created a “momentum” for the trio.
Though Dartmouth did not have a podium winner in the men’s race today, they did stack places fourth through seventh for the top team score. Patrick O’Brien, Nils Koons and Eric Packer had a combined score of 117 points. In second was SLU with 106, and the third team with 102 points was Middlebury.
The close team scores in today’s races bode for exceptionally competitive relays tomorrow, complete with exciting scrambles, nerve-wracking tag zones, and photo finishes. If you are in the area you won’t want to miss it! The men race at 9 and the women at 10am.