The last EISA carnival before Regionals was hosted by Williams College this weekend. There were already several feet of base snow on the race courses at Prospect Mountain in Woodford, VT, but that didn’t stop more snow from falling overnight and into the morning of Friday’s classic races.
Despite soft conditions on Friday, the snow stopped and temperatures stayed below freezing, making for hard wax conditions in the classic tracks and a solid base for the skate races.
In the women’s races, Dartmouth’s Ida Sargent made a strong statement. She absolutely crushed the field in the 5km classic, winning by 48 seconds in a race which only took fifteen and a half minutes to complete. Caitlin Patterson of UVM was the second finisher, with Sophie Caldwell of Dartmouth in third.
When asked which aspect of racing was allowing her to gain so much time on her competitors, Sargent said, “Definitely transitions are one of my strong points – there’s a lot of ups and downs on this course, especially at the end there’s a bunch of shorter hills, there’s not any really long ones, and so that’s one of my strengths.” Sargent also thought it helped to pace herself, even though it was only a one lap race, “to just be able to have something left at the end, because that’s where most of the hills were on this course.”
In the 5km skate, Patterson started after Sargent and made a valiant attempt to race down her competitor’s split times, but though she came within 3 seconds out on the course, Patterson crossed the line 11.4 seconds off Sargent’s winning time, for another second place finish. Friday’s podium was replicated when Caldwell again secured third place.
Dartmouth women, headed by Sargent and Caldwell and backed by 4th place finishes from Katie Bono in the classic race and Erika Flowers in the skate race, continued their domination of the women’s team scores. UVM took second both days, with Patterson’s teammate Jennie Bender taking 6th and 5th in the races.
Franz Bernstein of UVM, in the yellow leader’s jersy, also had a decisive victory in the 10km classic race. He looked strong and smooth as he cruised to a 30 second lead over the rest of the field, making this his third first place classic finish in as many weeks. Patrick Johnson of Middlebury took second and Patrick O’Brien of Dartmouth took third.
Only O’Brien stayed on the podium for the skate race, and on the same 10km course as the day before the skate times were 2 minutes faster, but the time gap for the top three finishers was only 4 seconds. Eric Packer of Dartmouth was the surprise win of the day, edging Wyatt Fereday of Colby College – another fresh face to the podium – by just .9 of a second. O’Brien finished third, 3.2 seconds behind Fereday. Up to this point Fereday, who is much stronger in skating, had a season’s best finish of 6th.
Packer has had several 6th place finishes, but his best race this season has been a 5th place skate at the first carnival.
“I was actually really surprised,” said Packer of his win, “because I woke up this morning feeling like I was kind of getting a cold and I wasn’t sure I would race. I spoke with Ruff [Patterson, Dartmouth men’s coach] and he recommended that I go out, but just go out and just take it really easy on the first lap, and so I did that, and I ended up feeling much better than I have in the last couple weeks.”
Packer said this feeling sparked his realization that he had “probably been starting too hard” in races for the majority of the season and that “taking it slow on the first lap was just the right pace.” Packer started in the middle of the start list, so when he got a split after the first lap that put him in third he knew it probably didn’t mean anything, as none of the top competitors had been by the checkpoint. It wasn’t until the second 5 km loop that he picked up the tempo, after being surprised at how strong he felt.
“I had good legs in the last 3k, so that’s when I really went hard, when I realized that I could still ski fast.”
Dartmouth also won the men’s team scores on both days, although UVM and Middlebury came close in the classic race. Colby College was a new challenger to Dartmouth’s top score in the skate race, headed by Fereday and backed up by Sam Mathes in 8th and Jake Barton in 13th.
Although they took no podiums, Williams showed that they, like the Canadians in the Olympic 30km pursuit held Saturday, could benefit from a home-course advantage. Led by 5th and 8th place finishes by Alice Nelson and Kirsten Johnson, the Williams women took 3rd on Friday, while Dimitri Luthi and Keith Kantack placed 4th and 9th respectively in the men’s classic race. The Williams men took 3rd in the skate race, again led by Luthi in 4th place and followed by Alex Taylor in 5th place.
The piles of snow at Prospect Mountain were a welcome sight to many teams who have been dealing with thin or no snow at their home training areas. Sargent said that the toughest part of training was having to travel to skiable snow or – as in last weekend at Stowe – stay an extra day at courses that had good tracks.
Packer summed up his feelings after his exciting first place finish on the last day of the Williams Carnival by saying, “The trails were awesome, the snow was really awesome, good grooming, fun day.”
EISA page (with media by Lincoln Benedict)