EISA Race Weekend #4: February 10-11.
It was the 102nd Dartmouth Winter Carnival, but without the snow to host the nordic races of the themed “Sweetest Carnival Ever” had to be moved to the Trapp Family Lodge, the same location as last weekend’s races hosted by UVM. The race line-up was in the NCAA format of 5/10 individual start skate on Friday and 15/20 mass start classic on Saturday.
Dartmouth and UVM continued their rivalry for top team, but the UVM women’s sweep of the podium on the last race of the weekend helped UVM top the chart.
There were no new names on the top of the podium this weekend, either. Dartmouth’s Sophie Caldwell and Eric Packer, Middlebury’s Patrick Johnson, and UVM’s Lucy Garrec all added another individual title to their season.
Caldwell earned a narrow victory in Friday’s 5k event which took just under 14 minutes to complete. She crossed the line just two and a half seconds ahead of UVM’s Caitlin Patterson and another 1.1 seconds ahead of Garrec. Erika Flowers (DAR) and Amy Glen (UVM) rounded out the top five.
Johnson again showed his prowess on the track in gapping the men’s field by 25 seconds over the 26 minute race. Sam Tarling (DAR) took second, five seconds ahead of UVM’s Alex Howe. Gordon Vermeer (DAR) and Jordon Buetow (Bates) finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Without snow at home, Caldwell explained that her team was piecing together ski training by staying at the race venue from Thursday through Sunday and then traveling one day during the week to get on snow. When asked how she matched her strengths as a racer to this particular course Caldwell replied that transitions were her probable strength, but that she lost time in the finishing kilometer.
“I try to just ski light and quick and ski the transitions hard in the beginning,” said Caldwell, “I know I am just awful at this last K so I just try to go hard as I can and get up as much as possible in the beginning – and I guess it was enough this time.”
Johnson actually harbored the opposite strategy.
“The long climb into the finish has been good for me here. I know just from the splits today that I was making a lot of time on my competition there and I think the rest of the race I was probably generally holding even, so I sort of think that long climb really suits me.”
Johnson won last weekend’s skate race by 42 seconds and this weekend’s race by 25 seconds. He attributes his strong finishes not to a specific reason or change in his training, rather to the simple recipe of “putting in the time and the work”.
“I think its just been years of good training,” said Johnson, “I’ve been doing this for awhile, and it’s nice to finally be able to put together a good season where I can consistently pull off results like this.”
In his defense, Sam Tarling had a pretty good reason to be slightly off pace. As he took the hard right hand turn at the 2.5k mark a squirrel darted in front of him.
Here is Tarling’s story:
I tried to avoid it, but it kept darting back and forth, and it just went under my ski. I fell flat on my face, – – it was like hitting a rock or something. . . I looked back when I got up and I saw the squirrel twitching and bloody and I thought, “Well, I’m doing better than that guy, so. . .”
I went by [coach Cami Thompson-Graves] on the corner and she said [Tarling mimicks falsetto voice] “You’re in 19th place, you’re off to a slow start”, and I was like, “you don’t even know what happened, it was so dramatic!”
“The second lap Will Wicherski was skiing with me and I pointed out [the dead squirrel] and said, “Look, that’s my kill, right there!” and I finished the race and then went back to get it and Ethan [Dreissigacker] helped me skin it and gut it and then we put it on ice and now we’re going to grill it at the tailgate.”
Mass Start Classic
The drama continued on Saturday, starting with the mass start classic races and ending with the Carnival Crush festivities.
The story of the day on Saturday was the podium sweep pulled off by the UVM trio of Lucy Garrec, Amy Glen, and Caitlin Patterson.
Glen and Garrec both expressed the sentiment that another podium sweep had been their goal since they had managed the same feat at their home carnival last year.
“We’ve all been skiing consistently well,” said Glen, of their season performances thus far, “but it was something we’ve really been wanting to do, to repeat our 1-2-3 in a classic mass start.”
Besides being their home course, Garrec thought the race trails at Trapps played to the UVM women’s strengths.
“Our girls team is really good at getting big and relaxed striding,” said Garrec, “so we are able to ski this course especially well; smooth and relaxed.”
Glen said that her teammate Anja Gruber led for most of the first lap, after which Glen and Garrec moved into the front and traded the lead all the way to the finish line.
Garrec said she does not like leading into the finish because she is not a confident sprinter. But a little stern self talk kept her head in the game.
“I told myself, ‘Lucy, this is your one chance to TRY to sprint into the finish. . .just keep turning it over and it will work out.’ So I just tried. And it worked!”
Garrec got Glen with a lunge at the finish line, a distance Glenn describes as “a decent boot length.”
“Maybe,” offered Glenn with a smile, “I should stretch more.”
Patterson finished just behind the pair with a time of 47:54.8. Dartmouth’s Annie Hart followed for fourth and Gruber crossed the line in fifth.
The morning of the race, Eric Packer was still unsure if he was 100 percent recovered from a mid-week cold but decided at the last minute to hop in the race in part because it was his last chance to enter a college carnival. The Dartmouth senior is traveling to the U23 games in Turkey next week and will miss the last two race weekends of the EISA circuit.
“Cardiovascularly it felt great, “ said Packer of the race effort, “but it was interesting having your sinuses hurt during a race and otherwise feel good.”
Having confidence in his sprint finish, Packer knew that if he could just keep with the group until the last half kilometer he would have a good chance at the win. He said that the relaxed pace of the first lap changed as Midlebury’s Patrick Johnson and Ben Lustgarten turned the pace dial up and the front pack started to break apart.
Packer executed his plan, however, and hung on until the finishing stretch, crossing the line just two seconds ahead of Johnson in second, Tarling in third, Vermeer in fourth, and Lustgarten in fifth.
As the competition for race titles wound down, the competition for affection heated up. The tradition of “Carnie Crushes” – giving out team and individual valentines – is an annual event at the Dartmouth Carnival and besides the regular cards and posters included performance poetry, acoustic ballads, acapella serenades, and other choreographed routines.
Coming Up: The fifth weekend of EISA racing will be held next Saturday in Craftsbury, Vermont as Williams College hosts a one-day 10 k classic race for both genders.
Photo Gallery (click to enlarge):