Due to low snow in Hanover, New Hampshire, the Dartmouth Carnival was moved to Craftsbury, Vermont this year. Ironically, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, renowned as one of the top snow-making operations in the East, did not need to fire up the guns for last weekend’s races.
Thanks to a dumping of fresh snow from the Nor’easter named Nemo, racers were able to take full advantage of Craftsbury’s challenging 5-kilometer race loop. Though the loop begins on a stretch of snow all too familiar to anyone who spent last winter in New England, the trail soon leads racers into sustained climbs and fast descents, ultimately bringing racers far below the stadium before twisting brutally back uphill toward the finish.
The course was made even more challenging this weekend by the winter storm’s heavy precipitation; Friday’s classic races were held in snowing conditions, slowing the course considerably. Despite the difficulty the fresh accumulation added to waxing, pacing and even just seeing the trail ahead, most everyone in attendance seemed ecstatic just to be skiing while snow was falling from the sky.
FRIDAY: 5/10k classic
Though they were still a few hours removed from Hanover, the home team was left wanting after the very first race of the weekend. Though they placed skiers in places 4 through 6, the Dartmouth women were unable to capture a podium spot in the 5k classic race. Anja Gruber of UVM continued to impress in the classic style, taking the victory by 17 seconds ahead of Middlebury’s Annie Pokorny. Third place went to Kaitlynn Miller of Bowdoin, who had been skiing dangerously close to the podium, or perhaps in this case “Bowdium”, all season. The finish was yet another best-ever EISA result for Bowdoin College.
Though they did not place anyone on the podium, Dartmouth did place their top 3 skiers in the next 3 places. Annie Hart, Corey Stock and Mary O’Connell finished 4th, 5th and 6th, respectively. The trio’s depth at the top end of the field led Dartmouth to a victory in the team score.
The men’s race saw another UVM skier atop the podium, as Scott Patterson collected his first classic-style victory of the season. Though he has been nearly untouchable in the freestyle technique so far this year, Patterson had finished 5th and 2nd in the two earlier classic races this season at Colby and UVM.
Finishing behind Patterson were Dartmouth skiers Sam Tarling and Silas Talbot who, along with David Sinclair in 5th place, were barely able to give the Big Green the top team score, 2 points ahead of UVM.
Vermont’s Dylan Grald finished 4th, as a familiar list of schools packed the top-10. Aside from Middlebury’s Ben Lustgarten in 7th place, the top-10 consisted entirely of skiers from Dartmouth and UVM.
Saturday: 3x5k Relays
Even after the conclusion of Friday’s races, the snow continued. Though the storm let up in the early hours of the morning, racers on Saturday were greeted by thick, soft and dry powder for the 3×5 kilometer freestyle relays. Once again, the going would not be easy.
Middlebury’s Austin Cobb led the pack through the first section of the course as the men’s field settled in past Craftsbury’s large open stadium area. During the second half of the scramble leg, Dartmouth skiers Erik Fagerstrom and Scott Lacy pushed ahead to tag off to their Big Green teammates with a bit of a lead. Their effort was successful, if only briefly.
On the next leg UVM’s Rogan Brown caught up to the two Dartmouth teams, while behind them Scott Patterson furiously fought (and succeeded) to also make contact with the leaders. This lead pack of four teams would be at the front for the remainder of the race.
Behind the storm of green and black suits at the front, Middlebury’s Dylan McGarthwaite skied an impressive leg to bring the Panthers up into 5th overall, which represented 3rd place in the team standings (only the top team of each school counted for team scores).
On the final lap the group of UVM and Darmouth men still held an advantage over the field. As the racers headed to the low point of the course many wondered if a sprint to the finish was imminent.
Dartmouth’s Sam Tarling put those questions to rest, putting on a big surge in the last few kilometers. Tarling created a gap large enough to allow him to cross the line smiling and waving a Dartmouth flag to the home crowd.
To give the Big Green even more to cheer about, Dartmouth’s Steve Mangan crossed the line next. UVM took places 3 and 4 in the overall standings (2nd in team scores) while Middlebury finished 5th overall to secure 3rd place in the team standings.
The women’s relay stayed together early, as a relatively large pack was still skiing within sight of one another approaching the top of “Coaches Corner” at the 4k mark. Familiar suits were at the front, however, as UVM’s Linda Dandvind-Malm and Dartmouth’s Annie Hart towed the rest of the field in their wake.
By leg 2, an order began to form that would hold for most of the race: Dartmouth in front, chased by UVM and UNH. With wider gaps between racers than the men’s relay, the women’s race was all about chasing down the team ahead of you. With the top three teams, however, there was little shuffling at the front as Dartmouth, UVM and UNH each crossed the line, in that order, with about a minute between teams.
Aside from racing, the Dartmouth Winter Carnival is also home to a few other notable traditions. On Saturday, Dartmouth skiers and fans donned knickers and school sweaters to cheer on the racers. Dartmouth’s green suits were quite prevalent during the races, and the green sweaters and knickers were just as prevalent in the post-race festivities.
One of the more unique post-race festivities at the Dartmouth Carnival is the annual “Carni-Crush” exchange that takes place after the conclusion of racing on day 2 of the Carnival weekend. Though the Carnival did not fall on Valentines Day this year, the tradition of teams and individuals giving out valentines to other racers was not one to miss. Skiers wrote poems, sang songs, and organized dance routines to show express their love for their friends and competitors. Some were sincere, others were crude, and most were cringe-worthy, but everyone was having a blast in the relaxed post-race atmosphere.
EISA Racing continues next week with the Middlebury Carnival, featuring new and updated courses at the Rikert Touring Center.
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Adam Terko is the assistant coach of the St. Lawrence University Ski Team