The temperatures were bitter cold in Hanover, New Hampshire this morning – when the first racer started it was a slight 5 degrees Fahrenheit – but the tracks around Oak Hill were hard pack and fast.
Despite the hype around their home carnival – slated as the 100th annual – the Dartmouth team kept their focus and showed their home town crowd how a ski race is won.
Sam Tarling led the team to victory with his time of 24:17.5 , taking the win by 11.2 seconds over his teammate Erik Packer in the fast-paced, two-lap race.
Snagging the top two spots was enough to ensure a top team score in the men’s race, though not for lack of form from the men of UVM, who filled the next three slots on the scoreboard. Just 1.5 seconds behind Packer, Scott Patterson took 3rd and finished 13.4 seconds up on teammates Franz Bernstein and Alexander Howe. In true teammate style, Bernstein and Howe tied for fourth place, both posting times of 24:43.6.
Tarling, who said he received splits of 10th after the first lap and 4th in the middle of the second lap, thought he made up time on the course by racing strong through the transitions and the last “gradual, grueling” kilometer to the finish.
“I was psyched to get back on this course,” said Tarling, “I haven’t raced it since high school, and I won my first Eastern Cup here, so I like this course a lot and I was just hoping that things would come together today.”
With Tarling’s win, the Dartmouth men posted a score of 134 points, 10 points up on rival UVM.
Though Dartmouth missed out on the individual title, they accumulated the top team score in the women’s race as well, posting 126 points to UVM’s 117 points.
UVM’s Caitlin Patterson continued to dominate the field in the women’s race, finishing with a gaping margin of 25 seconds on a 5km loop which took just under 14 minutes to complete. Patterson, who has not lost a race she has entered yet this year, only tightened her hold on the yellow jersey.
Patterson said she was pleased to be racing fast, admitting that the two weeks of class she missed while racing overseas was now catching up to her in the way of make-up work, tests, and less-than-optimal rest. However, Patterson pointed to the terrain on Oak Hill as a major factor for her strong race.
“There are some good, steep uphills that are sort of hard to climb – but I like those – and then some good, fast downhills that you really have to be on your toes for,” said Patterson, who sympathized with some of her competitors that got caught off-guard on the first sharp left-hand turn out of the stadium. Dappled sunlight made for tough visibility, though the turn was heavy with V-board and signage, and several women slid out of control.
With her strengths as a climber, Patterson planned to make up time in the hilly section between 3 and 4.5 kilometers if she was down to a competitor in a split. But though she received winning splits the whole way around the course, knowing one of her fiercest competitors was behind her made Patterson charge all the way across the finish line.
“I got one split at 3 k that said I was 13 seconds up on Erika Flowers, but Rosie [Brennan] was still behind me so I wasn’t about to let up,” said Patterson.
Not to be completely outdone on their home course, Erika Flowers and Rosie Brennan made a team win possible for Dartmouth with their 2nd and 3rd place finishes. With a time of 14:09.6 Flowers was just 2.6 seconds ahead of Brennan on the podium.
Having a stand-out race, Kirsten Gill of Bates placed 4th, four seconds up on Clare Egan of UNH to round out the top 5.
After the first day of racing, the top three nordic scores are:
1. Dartmouth: 260
2. UVM: 241
3. Middlebury: 155.5