Graduate from Dartmouth as a five-time NCAA All-American? Check. Crush Crossfit? Check. Become a professional nordic skier? Check. Stand at top of a SuperTour race podium? Check.
While American Anne Hart, the winner of the SuperTour women’s 5-kilometer freestyle individual start last Saturday in Craftsbury, Vt., has already notched plenty of athletic and academic achievements, her first SuperTour win was no different.
“It feels great! It was my first ever SuperTour win, so it’s nice to cross that off the list,” Hart, who races for Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 Team and won the event with a time of 11:36.2, wrote in an email after the race.
Hart has consistently been working her way to the top of the results this season, with two second-place finishes at this year’s U.S. nationals, a third-place finish in the freestyle sprint in Lake Placid, N.Y., two weekends ago, and finally, first in the Craftsbury SuperTour 5 k skate.
“I am a pretty strong V2er, and I love skiing that isn’t tempo based but instead relies on a good push and a long glide,” wrote Hart, a 23-year-old native of Stillwater, Minn.
“This kind of course rewarded big, relaxed, and powerful skiing. It challenged me because pacing has historically been my Achilles heel, and there were no opportunities to let off the gas and recover on a long downhill,” she added.
After assessing the profile of the 2 x 2.5 lap course — each loop found to be predominantly flat, with a few gradual uphills and downhills — Hart and her SMST2 coach, Patrick O’Brien, decided to Hart should ski the first lap at threshold and make her move with 1.5 k to go.
“For me the biggest take away from the race is pacing is a thing for a reason — it doesn’t mean go slowly the first lap, it just means save something in the tank so you can push all the way THROUGH the line instead of just struggling TO the line,” Hart wrote.
Crossing the line just 2.8 seconds off Hart’s time in second place was Alaska Pacific University (APU) racer, Chelsea Holmes.
While some might argue the fast, flat course was not well-suited for Holmes’ skiing style, the 29-year-old Alaskan’s performance refuted that.
“While I might not be a power skier suited for flat courses, I can free skate pretty well and that course was all about using your leg strength and skiing the transitions well,” Holmes wrote in an email.
She put her focus on the transitions and working the whole course — including, at one point, a chase back to the front.
“I actually fell on an icy patch on the last downhill from the upper stadium to the lower before you loop around to finish,” she wrote. “In retrospect I wish I had been a bit more careful as it cost me some valuable time in a tight race.”
Despite the short course and fast times, by the time she toed the finish line, Holmes had pushed her way back towards the top.
“It was a super fun race and I have to congratulate the girls on the podium, 5km is tough!” Holmes added after her second-consecutive SuperTour podium and placing third in the 10 k classic in Lake Placid the weekend before.
In her third skate distance race of the year, Erika Flowers (SMST2) snagged the final podium spot in third, 10.5 seconds back from teammate Hart.
“With no huge uphills or downhills, the course required constant output which played to my strengths,” Flowers wrote in an email. “I also love fast conditions where I can ski big with lots of glide. I’ve always liked racing in Craftsbury because the courses flow really well.”
Originally from Bozeman, Mont., Flowers’ four years as a ski racer for Dartmouth College on New England snow, as well as her current East Coast training at Stratton in southern Vermont, prepared her Craftsbury’s conditions during Saturday’s 5 k event.
“The biggest challenge for me was finding a balance between tempo and power knowing that you can waste a lot of energy skiing frantically in icy conditions but if you take your foot off the gas for a second you immediately start losing time,” she wrote. “I think I skied smoothly and was able to carry momentum throughout the course and pick off some places on the second lap.”
Flowers lunged for the line in the end, just barely edging APU’s Jessica Yeaton out of third place by 0.1 seconds.
“I also never forget to lunge!” Flowers added. “It was very tight between Jessica Yeaton and I for 3rd place so every second really does count.”
Caldwell Cranks to the Top of the Men’s Field
There are times when ski racing is simply a grind. Then there are times when a skier puts the grind into their racing. Paddy Caldwell (Dartmouth College/SMST2/U.S. Ski Team), the winner of the SuperTour men’s 10 k freestyle individual start SuperTour race on Saturday in Craftsbury, Vt., proved he’s one for the latter.
“I felt great during the race. That was definitely the best I have felt all year and I am hoping to keep bringing good energy into the rest of the season,” Caldwell wrote in an email.
“The course was a total grind, not much rest but no major climbs. I was focused on hitting the transitions hard and trying to keep momentum everywhere on course,” he added.
Caldwell did keep his momentum — and then some. He won the 10 k freestyle in 20:42.9, leading the second-place finisher Tad Elliott (Ski and Snowboard Club Vail) by 37.9 seconds.
“Paddy Caldwell crushed us,” Elliott, a former U.S. Ski Team member, wrote in an email. “It was a fantastic race from him. I don’t think I could have done anything different to go faster. For him to ski like that was just impressive and awesome. I look forward to seeing his races later this season.”
Though he spends his summers training at Stratton, Caldwell is currently studying and racing at Dartmouth College for the winter term, furthering his studies in geography and economics.
“I am planning on racing this weekend and next weekend for Dartmouth to compete in the carnivals before U23s!” he wrote.
Pumped for Caldwell, Elliott was also pleased by his own performance.
“My skate skiing has been feeling really good lately and I have felt fantastic on my feet skiing,” wrote Elliott, a national champion in this year’s 30 k freestyle mass start. I knew the course suited me well with all the gliding. I skied to win!” he wrote in an email.
Despite missing out on the victory, Elliott wrote, “I was really proud of how I skied.”
He finished 1.1 seconds ahead of Kris Freeman (Team Freebird), who placed third, 39 seconds behind Caldwell.
“The course had not that many big hills on it and was one of the flattest races I have done,” Freeman wrote in an email. “Ironically this made the race very hard. No uphills meant no downhills so I was working hard the entire time.”
While the course was made more difficult by the constant expenditure of energy, Freeman also noted the fast conditions made the 10 k go by quickly.
“The race felt like a 20-minute skate sprint qualifier,” he wrote, noting that, despite having higher result-based goals, his body “energy was better than it has been” on Saturday.
With limited snow in Stowe, Vt., organizers moved the SuperTour races from Trapp Family Lodge to the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, and most racers were grateful for the course challenge, as opposed to no course at all.
“I’m so impressed with the skiing at Craftsbury, big thanks to everyone here for making this weekend happen,” Caldwell wrote.
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Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.