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.
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.
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.
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