With only one NCAA qualifying race in the EISA weekend, the question was: who would step up their game?
The answer came from two Dartmouth juniors that were tired of taking second: Erika Flowers and Eric Packer. Out of five podium finishes this season, Packer has not only taken second place in four races (two each of skate and classic) without clinching a win, but is also ranked second overall on the EISA points list.
Stronger at the skate technique, Flowers has also placed second twice at carnival skate races without finishing in first.
“I’ve been really close so many times it felt good to finally win,” said Packer. “The guys on the team were starting to give me grief for it – they were starting to call me “Champ of the Chumps” because it seemed like I was always finishing second place, so I definitely had that in mind when I was racing today.”
One teammate – and close competitor – who may have wished he had not taunted Packer today was Nils Koons, who started 30 seconds before Packer out of the starting gate. Packer could see him on every climb of the course, and said that the splits he was getting on Koons were so close the entire 2 that “It was really a yo-yo all the way around.”
Packer thought it was important in today’s conditions to race the whole course at a constant pace.
At the men’s 10am race start he temperatures had already climbed to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The hard-pack track around the Rikert Touring Center held up under a sprinkle of rain without getting mushy, but moisture and dirt made for slower skiing and created wider-than-usual gaps between finish times.
“I was just focusing on skiing the whole course fast, because of the way that course is, with the gradual downhills it’s important to race at a really constant output, skiing the downhills as hard as the uphills.”
As he crossed the finish line, Packer knew right away that he had upped teammate Koons, but he had to wait several minutes before yellow jersey holder(and teammate) Sam Tarling and top UVM competitor Alex Howe finished the race before finding out he had finally taken top tier on the podium.
“I was really excited to have that at last.”
Packer took the win by 2.6 seconds over Koons, while third place went to Colby’s Wyatt Fereday. Fereday, whose top result thus far in the carnival season has been 11th place, had a stand-out race, finishing 18.3 seconds back to Koons. He also helped his team capture the second men’s score, 31 points behind Dartmouth.
UVM competed without two of their key members – Scott Patterson and Franz Bernstein – but Alex Howe held up the team with a 4th place finish. Meanwhile, last weekend’s double-winner, Sam Tarling, grabbed 5th place and the third Dartmouth score to put the Big Green men’s team in first at 136 points. Host college, Middlebury, put three men in the top 13 in order to snag the third men’s score.
Conditions didn’t change much for the women’s race at 11:30am.
“It was something different than what we’ve been skiing on,” said Flowers of the warm conditions, “it kind of favors more glide and powerful skiing.”
Flowers said she hadn’t felt great that morning, but after a conservative first lap she started getting into the race. She was also fortunate enough to get good splits on her competition.
“I started in the back and Lucy [Garrec] was in front of me and she was having a really good race – we were kind of going back and forth throughout the race, so that was fun.”
Flowers thought she made up time by working a good tempo through the V2 sections of flat and gradual uphill, as she ended up putting 8.4 seconds on UVM’s Garrec, while her teammate, Rosie Brennan, ensured a top score for the Dartmouth women by landing third place, 22 seconds back to Garrec.
The Dartmouth women tallied 133 points to UVM’s 125.
It was another day of fierce competition between the two rivals, as the top eight finishers heralded from either team. UVM picked up 4th and 6th with Caitlin Curran and Amy Glen while Dartmouth took 5th, 7th and 8th with Stephanie Crocker, Sophie Caldwell, and Megan Killegrew.
Corinne Prevot (MID) and Elizabeth Guiney (UNH) rounded out the top 10.
Combined Nordic Scores:
1. Dartmouth College: 269
2. University of Vermont: 222
3. Middlebury College: 188