Though they do not host an EISA event every year, the Williams Carnival often coincides with the Olympic Games both in terms of yearly-cycle and calendar date. In past seasons, this event has been referred to by the organizers with unique puns like “Williamshammer” (the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics) and “Moogano” (the 1998 Nagano Olympics). With this year’s event taking place parallel to the Sochi Winter Games in Russia, one might find themselves pining for a little bit of that Olympic touch within the college Nordic scene. Perhaps “Moochi” or Soch-Eph”?
Regardless of your level of Olympic spirit, no skier will complain about having large amounts of snow. A massive winter storm brought over two feet of fresh, soft snow to the Prospect Mountain ski area last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the penultimate race weekend of the EISA season.
Many of them would tell you that driving a van, bus or trailer through a snowstorm is common practice for cross country ski coaches, and everyone from coaches to parents to athletes got to put their winter driving skills to the test on the long ascent to the venue, part of a now-defunct alpine ski area that sits at over 2,000 ft in elevation.
Much like winter patterns and studs for drivers, different approaches to technique and ski selection must be used when facing soft snow on a ski course. Add in the pressure of a narrowing window of opportunity for skiers on the bubble of NCAA qualification, and you have a truly interesting race weekend.
Friday: 3×3.25K Freestyle Relay
Friday brought the first and only relay event of the year to the EISA, with some perennial powerhouses up front. UVM made winning look easy in the women’s race. Though Dartmouth’s Annie Hart led out of the gate, the trio of Linda Danvind-Malm, Anja Gruber and Stephanie Kirk (in that order) put the rest of the field out of sight behind them en route to a minute-plus victory over Dartmouth.
The most exciting moments of the day came in the race for the final podium spot. Leg by strong early legs by Hallie Grossman and Jane McClarney, the Bates women looked to have a lock on third place going into the final leg. The Bobcat’s anchor skier, Sadie James, has raced to multiple excellent performances in the top-30 this year, but struggled Friday under the pressure of three skiers charging up to her, two of them standout freshmen in their own right.
Colby’s Amy Bianco and Williams’ Hannah Cole made contact with James before the end of the leg, along with Bowdoin’s Kaitlynn Miller. Miller, who has steadily improved to be a consistent threat on the circuit, was the most experienced of this group. That played to her teams advantage, as Bowdoin took home third place to mark yet another milestone for the Polar Bear program. Williams finished in fourth and Colby in fifth, as James and the Bates team faded to sixth.
The men’s race was carried out in almost opposite fashion at the front, with UVM’s Cole Morgen taking an early lead out of the stadium. Without two of their usual scoring three (Scott Patterson and Rogan Brown), however, both of Dartmouth’s teams worked together to pass the Catamounts. By the final leg, Big Green skiers Paddy Caldwell and David Sinclair were skiing together with a gap to the rest of the field.
It was not a question of whether or not Dartmouth would win, but rather which Dartmouth team would win. In the end the first team of Fabian Stocek, Silas Talbot and Paddy Caldwell was victorious in a sprint finish over the second Dartmouth team of Erik Fagerstrom, Cam Woodworth and David Sinclair. UVM’s team of Cole Morgen, Jack Hegman and Jorgen Grav finished third, 30 seconds behind.
Saturday: 5/10K Classic
As snow continued to fall, more soft conditions were inevitable for the second day of the Carnival.
UVM’s Anja Gruber continued her excellent season with a win in Saturday’s 5k classic race. Between the two of them, Gruber and her teammate Linda Danvind-Malm have won every collegiate race so far this season. The two Cats only have one more weekend left to complete the streak of wins for UVM.
Finishing next behind Gruber on Saturday was not Danvind-Malm, nor other usual rivals such as Annie Hart or her Dartmouth teammates. Instead it was Bowdoin racer Kaitynn Miller, who improved on her previous top finish of third and stepped up one more level on the podium. Racing to a personal breakthrough of her own was sister Hannah Miller, whose eighth-place finish helped the Bowdoin women take their second team podium in as many days.
Danvind-Malm finished third, which once again helped the UVM women to a team victory.
The men’s race also saw a double-victory on the weekend, as Dartmouth’s Paddy Caldwell, anchor of Friday’s winning relay team, took his first individual collegiate victory ahead of teammate Silas Talbot. In third place was UNH skier Eirik Fosnaes, who picked up his second career podium in third.
Though winning a carnival as a freshman is certainly a big story, the success of Caldwell through his junior racing years made this victory somewhat unsurprising. The Dartmouth skier has always been a consistently fast racer, with the ability to perform best when it counts.
In that vein, it was a uncharacteristic off-day for EISA standout Jorgen Grav. The UVM racer, who has won on numerous occasions this year and has rarely finished outside the top 5 in recent races, found himself in 16th place and out of UVM’s team scoring.
Cole Morgen (6th), Jack Hegman (7th) and Rogan Brown (13th) were still able to secure second place for UVM in the team score, while the Williams men stacked the top-25 to earn a third place team score at their home event.
Farewell to Fisher
On the subject of the strong Williams results from this weekend, it is certainly worth noting that this was the final home carnival for long-time Williams head coach Bud Fisher, who will be departing after this season. A graduate of St. Lawrence University and a former standout cross country and Nordic combined athlete himself, Fisher began coaching at Williams in 1974. During his tenure at Williams Fisher also coached at the US Ski Team and Olympic level, and has become a prominent and highly-respected name in the skiing world.
During a small ceremony on Saturday many respects were paid to coach Fisher. A hearty congratulations goes out to Fisher for a long and successful career in the sport!
Results for this weekend can be found at BART Timing
Adam Terko is the assistant coach of the St. Lawrence University Ski Team