The first races of the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) were hosted by Bates College and held at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine – the same location that hosted the US Nationals just two weeks ago.
It was the first showdown of the year, and every team wanted to establish their place on the ranking list. Continuing their rivalry from last year, the University of Vermont (UVM) and Dartmouth (DAR) battled for the top team scores. The UVM women – led by Lucy Garrec, Caitlin Patterson, and Amy Glen – could not be beat. Meanwhile the Dartmouth men – led by Eric Packer, Sam Tarling, Gordon Vermeer and David Sinclair – topped the men’s team scores. In the yellow leader jerseys for the first day back in action were Caitlin Patterson and Eric Packer. Ironically enough, the two only succeeded in leading the pack on the second day of racing, after they dropped the yellow bibs.
The same 3.3 km course used at US Nationals still had a very fast hard-track base of man-made snow, but it was carpeted with a solid half foot of cold powder the night before the first race, making for a much softer track than expected in both races.
Though the individual start race distances were short, the new slow snow ensured for some wide gaps in the field: the time between the top ten women was more than a minute over 5k and in the men’s 10k race there was a gap of nearly one and a half minutes.
The titles for Saturday’s individual start skate race belonged to UVM’s Lucy Garrec and Middlebury’s Patrick Johnson. Garrec took the race with a firm lead on the field, clocking a time which was 13 seconds faster than teammate Caitlin Patterson and another 15 seconds faster than third place finisher Sophie Caldwell of Dartmouth.
In fourth and fifth place Erika Flowers (DAR) and Amy Glen (UVM) finished just one second apart, and rounding out the top ten were Beth Taylor (BAT), Alena Tofte (HAR), Elizabeth Guiney (UNH), Annie Pokorny (MID), and Anja Gruber (UVM).
Garrec said that she was glad the course slowed down with the new snow, because she could use her quick tempo to an advantage. She thought the key in these conditions was to keep relaxed and try not to fight the soft track.
“Keep it really quick and light, and try to switch gears over the top of every hill,” explained Garrec of her strategy.
Garrec wasn’t entirely surprised with her victory.
“It was my goal,” she stated. “I’ve been feeling really good in practice, and I like this course, so I was excited to go out there and give it my all.”
Johnson was also confident in his ability to top the field, given the opportunity.
“I definitely have been feeling good [in practice], but I also know there is a lot of tough competition out here so I was hoping to fight for the win and obviously I was able to do that today and get what I needed to pull it off, so I was happy with that.”
Johnson said he had to rethink his race strategy after racing in faster conditions at the US Nationals races. By skiing more efficiently and starting the race slower, Johnson hoped to pace himself and pick up time in conducive terrain.
“There’s a lot of flat sections in the stadium where you can work really hard and not go a lot faster and at the same time there is High School Hill where you can put a ton of energy in but not necessarily make time, so I think it was the long gradual sections where you had to put in the work today to ski fast,” Johnson explained.
Johnson executed his plan well, and with a half kilometer to go in his race he was given a split that he was tied for first. He was able to find the extra speed necessary, and crossed the line in a time of 26:20, just 2.5 seconds ahead of Dartmouth’s Sam Tarling.
Franz Bernstein o f UVM finished in third place, followed by Eric Packer (DAR) in 4th, Gordon Vermeer (DAR) in fifth, Scott Patterson (UVM) in sixth, Peter Hegman (UVM) in seventh, Jordon Buetow (BAT) in eighth, Erik Fagerstrom (DAR) in ninth and Will Wicherski (WIL) in tenth.
10 k Mass Start Classic
Saturday was another cold day at Black Mountain, with snow falling so lightly it never clogged the tracks. The waxing was easy, the race tactics much tougher. The mass start classic was only 10 kilometers in length, which meant it was a sprint from the get-go that barely slowed down, with 100 racers streaming the double-tracked, 3 x 3.3 km course.
It was an exciting day of races, as the short distance and fast track ensured a tight field and constant battles for changing positions in the pack formation.
The men’s race started first. Franz Bernstein and Sam Tarling took the charge in pulling a lead pack off the front of the field, cutting it down to just just over 15 racers by the third lap. The pack consisted mostly of Dartmouth and UVM racers, a smattering of Williams, Middlebury , and UNH racers throughout.
Though Bernstein and Tarling did much of the early work, it was Eric Packer who made a decisive move in the last lap of the race and came down the finishing stretch with a solid ten meter lead, clocking in with a 3.5 seconds lead over Bernstein with a time of 27:25. Friday’s winner Patrick Johnson (MID) was one of several skiers caught in a crash early in the race, but he made an impressive comeback over the next two laps, fighting his way through the field back up to the lead pack and finishing in third place, just 1.2 seconds ahead of Tarling. The next seven racers finished within eight seconds. Tarling started a run of Dartmouth skiers which was only broken up by sixth place Dimitri Luthi of Williams. In fifth was David Sinclair, seventh was Steve Mangan, and eighth was Gordon Vermeer. Finishing out the top ten were Benjamin Lustgarten (MID) and Fritz Horst (UVM).
In the women’s race Lucy Garrec charged off the start in her signature style, her teammates Caitlin Patterson and Anja Gruber just behind her and in the mix with Dartmouth’s Sophie Caldwell and Anne Hart and UNH’s Elizabeth Guiney. By the second lap Amy Glen had moved up to add more force to the UVM squad, and Isabel Caldwell moved up to add her weight to the Dartmouth scale.
“We started pretty fast ,” said Patterson, of the front pack pace. “My teammate Lucy Garrec starts off really fast, that’s what she naturally does. I wouldn’t have a tendency to start off that fast, so the pace felt really quick to me, but, again, I am a slow starter. . . we were not relaxing too much because it was only a 10k, compared to the 20 k we did a few weeks ago at Nationals.”
It was the third time up High School Hill where Patterson found herself – rather unexpectedly – making her move.
“I was just hanging out in the group,” said Patterson, “I really wasn’t feeling the greatest, it took me a little while to warm up into the race. . . on the second lap I felt really good going up High School Hill. On the third lap I didn’t preconceive that I would go there, but I decided I was working my way toward the front and at the top got into the very front and decided that was going to be it.”
Though Patterson said she “had a little bit of doubt” as to whether or not she could hold onto the charging pace for the rest of the lap, she also didn’t want to wait for the race to come down to a sprint finish.
Her gamble paid off, and Patterson came down the straightaway with a 5.4 second lead over Glen and another couple seconds over Sophie Caldwell, who edged Garrec out of third place by just .7 seconds.
Gruber was fifth, Hart finished sixth, Guiney seventh, Isabel Caldwell in eighth, Annie Pokorny (MID) in ninth, and Erika Flowers (DAR) rounded out the top ten.