EISA: UNH Women, Dartmouth Men win skate sprint relays

February 19, 20111

Amy Glen (UVM) and Corinne Prevot (MID) lunge toward the finish line for third place

It was a cold and blustery day for the  skate sprint relays on the second day of the Middlebury Carnival. The races were held on an open field across from the Rikert Touring Center, the terrain rolling and the track wide.  New snow and windblown drifts covered a rock-solid base and made for conditions that matched the difficulty of the format.  Each team had three racers that completed three, one kilometer loops, whose tag and finish zones were placed at the top of a sizeable hill.

Looking through wind gusts at the women's field on the back stretch of the sprint loop.
Clare Egan (UNH) and Erika Flowers (DAR) in the exchange zone

The women raced first at 10am as the winds gusted heavily across the field, temporarily marring visibility of racers and spectators alike.  But the top teams had only one thing in their vision: victory and team pride.  The UNH women were hungry for a win after narrowly giving up victory to Dartmouth at the distance relays earlier this season. With a scramble by Rosie Brennan, Dartmouth was strong off the start line but closely followed by UNH’s Clare Egan, Middlebury’s Sophie McClelland, and UVM’s Caitlin Curran.

UNH established a lead by mid-race, but Dartmouth was never far behind. Elizabeth Guiney (UNH) and Erika Flowers (DAR) battled in the second leg and then handed off to their finishing sprinters Natasha Kulles (UNH) and Stephanie Crocker (DAR).  Though Brennan closed the gap and tagged off in first on her third split, UNH gained that ground back so that Kulles could ski her finishing leg a clean 20 meters off the front, clocking the winning time of 32:03.5.  Crocker crossed the finish line just seven seconds back.

Third place was a battle between Middlebury and UVM.  UVM’s Curran was backed up by Lucy Garrec and Amy Glen, while Middlebury’s McClelland tagged off to teammates Keely Levins and Corinne Prevot.  Prevot and Glen had a battle up the last hill to the finish line, skating side by side as home-town fans screamed and waved Middlebury flags.  Glen prevailed in the last finishing pole strokes, pushing her foot to the line .3 seconds ahead of Prevot to finish in 32:17.4.

Natasha Kulles (UNH) sprints up the finishing hill ahead of Stephanie Crocker (DAR)

The men’s race was another exciting contest, though it ended with a sad twist for the hometown crowd.  After two legs it looked like Middlebury’s dynamic sprinters Graham Egan and Doug Debold had the chance to clinch the team title, but a missing team member in the third leg and a mix-up in the tag zone caused the team to continue the race with an unofficial team member, Ben Lustgarden. After faltering with the snafu and regaining ground, Middlebury caught up to the battle at the front of the field between Dartmouth and UVM.

Top teams in the exchange zone: Sam Tarling waits for a tag from Erik Packer (DAR), Alex Howe waits for Fritz Horst (UVM)

Dartmouth’s Sam Tarling, Nils Koons, and Erik Packer provided a triple threat, but UVM’s Alex Howe, Dylan Grald, and Fritz Horst answered back.  UVM nipped Dartmouth’s heels until Middlebury caught up and joined chase, the battle tightly contested until the last leg.  Erik Packer sprinted the last leg for Dartmouth and was able to cruise to the finish line uncontested, Middlebury finishing in second and UVM just 13 seconds off the lead pace.  However, because Middlebury mixed team members during the race, the team was disqualified and UVM was awarded second place. Dartmouth’s second team of Scott Lacy, Gordon Vermeer and Erik Fagerstrom finished third.

Top three nordic team scores for the Middlebury Carnival weekend:

1. Dartmouth: 491

2. UVM: 424

3. UNH: 344

Full Results

Doug Debold sprints the final climb for a hometown crowd

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One comment

  • bill mckibben

    February 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    This is an excellent account, and many thanks for it. But I thought I might put on my old sportswriter’s hat and add just a little, since it was one of the more memorable days of skiing I’ve ever seen.

    First, the setting. Middlebury coach Andrew Gardner, and new Breadloaf chief Mike Hussey, laid out this brand-new course early in the winter. From the top of the course, spectators out along a high snowbank can watch the whole race laid out before them, with the alpine trails of the Snowbowl offering a magnificent backdrop. Someone standing there used just the right analogy–it was Brueghelesque, and if you scroll down at this site to the second picture, you’ll have a good sense of the scale and beauty of the scene: http://flann4.wordpress.com/2008/03/18/how-do-we-feel/
    Of course, you could only see intermittently, when the wind gusts died down; at other moments, all through the morning, there was snow blowing sideways. And coming to the top of each of the two climbs you crashed directly into the river of wind. It was an epic scene.

    And the ‘snafu’ in the boys’ race was wild too. Middlebury captain Graham Egan skiied a strong first leg, and Doug Debold an absolutely epic one, blasting past skiers on the final climb. But as he crested the hill and came into the tag zone–no one to tag. He skated through in confusion, looped around, finally tagging freshman Ben Lustgarden, who was supposed to be anchoring the Middlebury B team. By this time a huge gap to the front of the field had opened up, but Lustgarden closed much of it quickly, picking off one skier after another. By now, of course, Egan and Debold must have suspected that they were DQed, but the three of them skied the race of the season anyway, hunting down and passing the UVM squad and closing the gap to Dartmouth to certainly no more than the time they’d lost in the fouled tag. It’s always impressive to watch the skiers on this circuit give everything and collapse across the finish; it’s even more so when they’re skiing purely for pride.

    The jury made the right and obvious decision to disqualify both squads–but the great Technical Director in the sky may have scored this one a little differently. In any event, for those of us who live in the Middlebury area, it will be a story we tell for as long as–well, as long as we hold off global warming and keep skiing on these beautiful hills.

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