They were not the ideal conditions in which to start the college racing season. The morning of the 5/10km classic races at Lake Placid held 31-33 degree temperatures with intermittent spitting rain, snow, and sleet. The race was run on the Olympic 5km course, a challenging loop which starts to climb at .5 km and doesn’t let up for the next 3 kms, before sending racers down a series of fast turns and spitting them back into the stadium.
Right away the tracks near the stadium glazed, while tracks at the top of the hills held a drier mix of snow: A good day for wax-less skis, perhaps? A good portion of the field did end up on multi or zero skis, but those reports, like the reports from the klister-crowd, were mixed. Wax-less didn’t kick on glazed tracks, where the klister did. But the wax-less proved better in the hills, where the klister had a tendency to ice, causing racers to trip over the top of the hills. As one racer put it, “you had to pick your poison.” Usually, spectators have to station themselves on downhill corners in order to see carnage, but a spectator standing at the top of Friday’s course reported seeing racers skiing over the top of the hill “and then falling flat on their face – quite a few of them, actually.”
The women’s race was held first, and whether Dartmouth hit the wax right or whether their women’s team is just that strong was a question that had to be asked, as the top six spots went to the Big Green. Ida Sargent grabbed the top spot, with teammates Rosie Brennan and Katie Bono filling the podium. Erika Flowers and Stephanie Crocker rounded out the top five, while Natasha Kullas of UNH was the first non-Dartmouth finisher, in 6th place.
The men’s top ten was a bit more diverse, and Dartmouth still took the top slot of the day -as well as 4th and 7th – to win the men’s team score. Nils Koons, who has been prevented by hamstring injury from classic skiing for the last two weeks (but at the time he received the injury he was reportedly winning that game of squash) looked to be back in fine form as he took the race by 34 seconds over Franz Bernstein of UVM and Dylan McGuffin of UNH. With UNH racers Erik Lindgren and Steve Bedard also in the top ten, UNH finished a close second in nordic team scoring.
The second day of racing saw a much more pleasant side to the weather – temperatures hovering around the freezing point and no new precipitation – but the day’s excitement came in the form of mass-carnage, 15 and 20km mass-start races. The races were held on the Biathlon 5km course, and with 90 competitors in both men’s and women’s events, even the two laps taken around the stadium before racers funneled onto the race trails did not help much with course congestion. “Basically, the first two laps were spent trying not to break anything or fall,” said Dylan McGuffin of UNH, boiling down a race strategy which most of the field tried to adhere to and some even succeeded with.
The men’s race was tactical: the first lap fast, the second slowed down, and by the middle of the third the top racers made their move. McGuffin charged to the lead, and Dartmouth skiers Patrick O’Brien and Nils Koons stayed on his pace. “The next thing we knew it was just the three of us,” said McGuffin, who worked with O’Brien and Koons to gap the field before taking the lead himself and racing to an 8.5 second victory, O’Brien in second and Koons in third.
The women raced hard, start to finish, but three of the racers showed superior strength on the field. It was again Dartmouth’s Ida Sargent and Rosie Brennan, along with UVM’s Caitlin Patterson who quickly established the lead and kept pushing the pace all the way to the line. Sargent took her second victory of the weekend, edging Patterson by 7 seconds. Brennan finished another 29 seconds back, for third place. UNH’s Anya Bean was the dark-horse surprise of the day, as she led her women’s team to a close second place finish behind Dartmouth for the day’s races.
Dartmouth proved that they were strong as ever in this first weekend of the eastern college carnivals, but it was UNH, led by McGuffin, Bedard, Lindgren, and Bean, who skied with something to prove. “I knew if everyone had a good race we would do well,” said McGuffin, “we definitely have the depth this year.”
With three second place team scores on the nordic results, UNH Coach Cory Schwartz was more than pleased with his team’s performance over the weekend. “It was an exciting first carnival. I think it’s going to be a year where a lot of teams can challenge Dartmouth for the top spot – And this was our weekend.” He then added, of McGuffin’s win, “Personally, I was very excited to have my first winner of the men’s race.”
Dartmouth women’s coach, Cami Thompson, was also pleased with the way her women’s team skied this weekend. Ida Sargent and Rosie Brennan, who have been skiing fast all fall and have recently been named to the Canmore World Cup team, will be leaving this Tuesday along with teammate Eric Packer for the U23 Games in Germany. Dartmouth’s Sam Tarling will be competing in the World Junior Championships, and Sophie Caldwell will be traveling to the Scandinavian Cup. All five athletes will miss next weekend’s carnival at Saint Michael’s College.
“It’s really exciting, so that’s what has kept me going,” said Sargent, of her recent race-heavy schedule, “I love to travel, love to race – the schoolwork will be the toughest part.”
The fact that she will be traveling to Europe with several others on the Dartmouth squad only adds to the excitement. “We have a lot of momentum,” Sargent said of her teammates, “so hopefully we can have some good races there.”
When asked if she thought the same two or three would be on the podium all season, coach Thompson replied that it was all “a matter of who best deals with travel and school, and who stays healthy.”
In the combined alpine and Nordic results, Dartmouth took first place for the weekend with 957 points. In second was the University of Vermont, with 849 points and the University of New Hampshire placed third with 828 points.