Dartmouth’s Eric Packer and Rosie Brennan took individual titles on the second day of the EISA Regional Championships hosted by Bates in Rumford, Maine. For Packer it was his third straight win and second win of the Championships, and for Brennan it was her first win, helping put their team ahead of UVM in both team scores for the day.
An inch or two of snow overnight continued to soften the tracks at Black Mountain for the 15 and 20 kilometer mass start races, but the wind was not a factor and the partial cloud cover and mild 20 degree temperatures made for an overall pleasant day of waxing and racing.
The soft conditions contributed to a wide spread in the finish times across both races, shown by the fact that the top eight men were separated by two minutes.
The men’s race was off to a clean start at 10am and right away the top skiers from Dartmouth led the race out, followed by UVM, Williams, and Middlebury: the order the teams – and top individuals – would ultimately finish in.
Packer wore the leader jersey well, letting other racers in front but never letting go, and putthe hammer down at the right moment so that his sprint to the finish could not be matched.
“Going in, I was actually going to try to break away at some point,” Packer explained of his race strategy.
“The races so far this year have tended to be pack skiing and I wanted to try – mainly for the effort and preparation for NCAA’s – to go hard for the third lap and just try to survive to the finish.”
Packer was able to execute his plan well. After the first two laps the lead group consisted of Packer, teammate David Sinclair, UVM’s Scott Patterson, Alex Howe and Franz Bernstein, and Williams’ Dimitri Luthi. Packer made his move on the third lap, skiing as hard as he could to break off the front, but Patterson was able to stick on his tails. Close behind, Dimitri Luthi and David Sinclair tried to maintain a competitive distance. Packer explained that, by the fourth lap, he and Patterson “were pretty well blown up” by their earlier surge, but with Luthi “yo-yo-ing” several meters behind them, they were unable to let down their guard.
Coming into the last kilometer, however, Packer found enough left to commit to a final push, and though Patterson was able to holdon to a solid 2nd place, he could not match Packer’s finishing speed.
“I made my move and just started sprinting as hard as I could,” described Packer “and when I looked over shoulder and saw I had some daylight I was pretty excited about that, and was able to push it in to the finish.”
Luthi also shot into the stadium unchallenged, crossing the line in 3rd, less than 4 seconds behind Patterson and another 27 seconds ahead of Sinclair for his first podium finish of the season.
Benjamin Lustgarten from Middlebury finished in 5th, 11 seconds up on a sprint finish between UVM’s Fritz Horst and UMPI’s Welley Ramsey for 6th and 7th. UVM’s third score was charted when Franz Bernstein edged Williams’ Keith Kantack for 8th place, and Alex Howe of UVM rounded out the top 10.
The team scores were close, but it was the Dartmouth men who took the win, 4 points ahead of UVM, in second, and 19 points ahead of Williams, in third.
Without several of their top guns competing in the weekend of racing, Packer praised his younger teammates for rising to the challenge.
“It was really cool to see them step up. They’ve been really fit in training – Scott Lacy has made a big jump this year and David Sinclair is just an ‘aerobic machine’.”
Packer pointed out that younger skiers are still learning how to race a 20 kilometer distance, which requires a far different strategy and fitness than the 10 and 15 kilometer distances of junior races, but that their efforts culminated when it mattered most.
“They really came through in a big way this weekend.”
The start of the women’s race was a little messy, with several pile-ups resulting in falls and broken poles. Once things were straightened out on the tracks, however, it was a sea of UVM and Dartmouth green that dominated the lead around every lap. At the front – not surprisingly – was UVM’s Caitlin Patterson. Having won 7 for 7 starts in the carnival races this year, the question was: could she finish the EISA season with a perfect record?
Dartmouth was determined the answer would be “no”. Led by Rosie Brennan and Erika Flowers, all six of the Dartmouth women raced in the lead pack of a dozen skiers, switching out positions with the top UVM racers including Patterson, Lucy Garrec, and Amy Glen, UNH’s Clare Egan, and Bates’ Natalie Ruppertsberger.
In the finishing kilometers it was Erika Flowers who tried to crack the field, but Patterson, Glen, and Brennan had more in the tank, catapulting out of the final downhill into the stadium in a double pole sprint to the finish line. Brennan proved the stronger competitor in the race, finishing 3 seconds up on Patterson, with Glen just on the ski tails of her teammate to finish another half second back.
Dartmouth’s Flowers, Annie Hart, and Isabel Caldwell finished in a string of 4th-5th-6th , backing up Brennan to take the overall women’s score of the day, a slim 2 points ahead of UVM, for whom Lucy Garrec’s seventh place rounded the score out for 128 points.
Headed by Rupperstberger in 8th place, the Bates’ women had the third team score, with 90 points.
With a 9th and 10th place finish by Sophie Caldwell and Stephanie Crocker, Dartmouth managed to finish with all six women in the top 10.
Brennan made a strong statement with her win: not only was she the first EISA competitor to unseat Patterson this season, but she also showed the strength and form that allowed her to finish in 2nd and 5th place at last season’s NCAA championships.
For Patterson, the loss may not be such a bad thing: a crack in the armor may mean a little release on the pressure. Patterson will still enter the NCAA’s as both the EISA leader and hometown favorite, the championships being held on UVM’s home course at Trapps.
“I can’t overthink it – how much pressure there is on me, but just be sort of ready to have fun with it,” said Patterson of her attitude going into the NCAA’s. “I don’t really know how those Western girls ski at low altitude, at sea level, so yeah – it should be interesting. I’m sure I’ll think about it a ton before then, but I’ll just try not to overthink it.”
Patterson has been keeping her eye on her Western competitors, listing the Colorado women, as well as Utah’s Maria Graefnings, as several of the women to look out for.
“I have to make sure I don’t get too stressed out about it: ‘the big match-up with the Western Girls’,” said Patterson, “but I think it will be really fun.”
Meanwhile, Packer may not have started the year in the contending favorites, but by heating up the last couple weekends he has finished the EISA season heading the All-East Team as the overall points leader.
Packer was hesitant with any concrete speculations.
“I don’t want to make any results predictions. I just want to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last couple weekends, and do my best to keep rested, and training well, and we’ll see what happens at NCAA’s,” said Packer, who then added, trailing off, “but I think Dartmouth does have a really good team this year, so. . .”
Team Scores from Classic Race:
1. Dartmouth: 251
2. UVM: 245
3. Middlebury: 163
Team Scores for classic and skate races combined:
1. UVM: 501
2. Dartmouth: 500
3. UNH: 328
Women: Caitlin PATTERSON (UVM)
Men: Eric PACKER (DAR)
Coach of the Year:
Patrick Weaver – UVM
Rookies of the Year:
Women: Annie HART (DAR)
Men: Scott PATTERSON (UVM)
Eric PACKER (DAR)
Sam TARLING (DAR)
Scott PATTERSON (UVM)
Nils KOONS (DAR)
Franz BERNSTEIN (UVM)
Alex HOWE (UVM)
Scott LACY (DAR)
Dimitri LUTHI (WIL)
Erik FAGERSTROM (DAR)
Fritz HORST (UVM)
Caitlin PATTERSON (UVM)
Lucy GARREC (UVM)
Rosie BRENNAN (DAR)
Erika FLOWERS (DAR)
Amy GLEN (UVM)
Clare EGAN (UNH)
Stephanie CROCKER (DAR)
Annie HART (DAR)
Caitlin CURRAN (UVM)
Elizabeth GUINEY (UNH)