Lake Placid, NY
Bright sun, perfect snow conditions and a torturous course with climbs around every corner: what more could you want to close out the regular season of EISA competition? Collegiate racers from across the area converged on the Olympic trails of Mt. Van Hoevenberg this past weekend for the EISA Regional Championships hosted by St. Lawrence University. While Regional performances were on the line, the events also served as a precursor to the NCAA Championships to be held on the same courses in less than two weeks time. Competitors were eager to test out the race course and measure their fitness as training narrows toward the final events of the season.
The men’s races were largely dominated by UVM and Dartmouth, and both events saw the return of Sophomore Paddy Caldwell to prime form after a few weeks back stateside following the U23 World Championships. The women’s field was again bested by Middlebury’s Heather Mooney and UNH’s Annika Taylor, who have battled back and forth all season.
The event schedule for the weekend mirrored that of the upcoming NCAA Championships: 5 and 10-kilometer freestyle individual-start races, followed by 15 and 20-kilometer mass start classical races.
Friday: 5/10km Freestyle
Cold conditions yet again, though sun and calm skies made for pleasant skiing as temps warmed throughout the day. The men’s race was a tale of two laps. The Ladies 5km race course is notorious for its climbing: one might describe the elevation profile as a glorified triangle, featuring sustained climbing with little recovery followed by a mostly non-technical descent back to the stadium. A flat lap lane in the stadium area provided only a brief mid-race respite for the men, who then had to set out once more into the woods to tackle the grueling climbs all over again.
After suffering his first freestyle loss of the season at the Middlebury Carnival, Dartmouth racer Paddy Caldwell returned to the top of the field on Friday, posting the fastest lap splits on both rotations around the course. He got the better of his closest skating rival, UVM’s Rogan Brown, by a whopping 37 seconds.
With the strongest race of his season, Dartmouth skier Jan Ketterson grabbed the final podium spot in 3rd.
Racers from UVM and Dartmouth ended up taking all spots in the top eight. Austin Meng of host St. Lawrence and Raleigh Goessling of UNH were the only two skiers to sneak into the top 10 among the sea of green suits with ninth and 10th place finishes, respectively.
With one lap of the tough course to test themselves on, the women’s race was no less daunting.
This second race came down to a familiar battle that has been playing out over race courses all season: Mooney vs. Taylor. With Taylor of UNH starting a minute behind her rival, the splits were in her favor, but on this first day it was Middlebury’s Mooney who took top honors, fending off Taylor by 16 seconds.
Despite the familiar scene in the top two spots, it was the women of UVM who truly dominated the majority of the top ten, taking places 3-6. Led by Stephanie Kirk’s podium performance, the Catamount women were a force to be reckoned with in the team score and certainly looked to be on top of their game when it counted.
UNH also put in a solid day. With Katrin Larusson inside the top ten and Maddy Pfeifer in 13th, the Wildcats followed the Catamounts in the team score and pushed the typically strong Middlebury women into third.
Saturday: 15/20km Classic
Conditions for classic racing could not have been better on Saturday, as a truly festive atmosphere surrounded the entire racing scene. The men faced four laps of the same daunting Ladies 5k loop, in sunny conditions warming from the single digits to the high teens.
Dartmouth’s Paddy Caldwell tested the field early, opening a small gap before being absorbed in the stadium area and feed zone. It was during second half of the race that the pacing exam really began, as Caldwell accelerated into the climbs and emerged from the woods at the end of the third lap with a clear gap on his competitors. By the fourth lap Caldwell was out of sight of the field, and he cruised home uncontested for the win.
The chase pack consisted of around ten men, all UVM and Dartmouth racers save for Per Lindgren of UNH.
Lindgren yo-yo’ed off the chase pack at first, but as the group seemed to realize Caldwell would be uncatch-able they appeared to back off and begin a more tactical race for the remaining podium spots.
Those spots were eventually won by Jorgen Grav (UVM) in second and Fabian Stocek (DAR) in third, setting up another battle of green suits in the team score. By a narrow four-point margin it was Dartmouth who took the win over the Catamounts. The men of Williams College capped a strong season by placing third.
The women’s race broke apart as well, with racers stringing out and shifting position throughout the three laps of competition. At the front it was again Heather Mooney and Annika Taylor duking it out. Among a swarm of cheering fans and teammates, it was Taylor who emerged victorious in the final race of the EISA season.
Good friends and training partners this past summer in Truckee, California, Taylor and Mooney are good friends and were quick to congratulate each other on great races and a great EISA campaign, as both seniors capped their Carnival careers with dominant seasons.
In a close finish for the final podium spot, the Panthers picked up another strong result from Kelsey Phinney who, along with Stella Holt, helped the Middlebury women to the top team score of the day.
The UVM women were unable to match their dominant performance of the day prior, and fell to third in the team score behind Taylor and her Wildcat teammates.
Results for the entire weekend can be found via BartTiming
With the EISA season ending on Saturday, UVM earned their fifth-straight overall EISA Championship Victory. Also of note were the presentations of both the EISA Service award and EISA Coach of the Year award. Former long-time Williams head coach Bud Fisher received the EISA Service award, while UNH’s Cory Schwartz was recognized as EISA Coach of the Year.
The 2015 NCAA Championships, hosted by St. Lawrence University, will be held March 11-14 in Lake Placid. For more information, please visit the official event website by clicking HERE
Adam Terko is the assistant coach of the St. Lawrence University Ski Team